THEOSOPHY, Vol. 31, No. 1, November, 1942
(Pages 27-32; Size: 46K)
(Number 95 of a 103-part series)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
THE SCIENTIFIC MIND AND ITS ENVIRONMENT
TO those few who have followed the history of civilized thought for the last century and a half, there is no mystery in the present outbreak of insanity. Civilization is being destroyed by brilliant minds carrying the "philosophy" of materialism to its logical conclusion. That philosophy has no room in it for chivalry, for the inherent rights of man, for mercy, charity, or tolerance of any kind; for anything, in short, except the rule of brute force guided by clever intellects to purely selfish ends.
To what are we indebted for this rule of atheism? First of all to religions which became so corrupt that thinking men could no longer take them seriously; then to the filling of the soul-vacuum by the "scientific" doctrines of the great materialists of the 19th Century.
By inheritance, science has reached the position described by Dr. David Lindsay Watson, in Scientists Are Human.(1)Science sprawls over all the horizons of the modern mind like some vast cloudbank. The outlook and method of science penetrate relentlessly the strata of daily custom into the caverns of the unconscious mind itself. Science is by far the most powerful intellectual phenomenon of modern times, inexorably laying down the law in regions far from any laboratory, and subtly governing, by its techniques and devices, our modes of life and ways of thinking. (p. 1.)This is essentially the position occupied by the Church in medieval times; and it is a position of enormous responsibility, carrying with it enormous consequences as the result of abuse. Of course, the nineteenth century "science" was really science only when and insofar as it confined itself to rigid physical facts and purely physical deductions therefrom. Unfortunately it did not do so, but chose to extend the "cloudbanks" over the whole realm of the human soul. To this day there are countless millions who believe that "science" and atheism are synonymous; and many of these are scientists.
Obviously, "science" must have gained enormous prestige in order to have such far-reaching results. The prestige was in part inherited; it arose from the wishes of hungry minds seeking a new answer, rather than from its own merits. But the earlier scientists were also most adroit propagandists; the more materialistic, the more ardent their exploitation of what they regarded as science. Thus there came to be a picture in the popular mind of science as an infallible test tube, and the scientists came to be personified as beneficient deities who conferred largess upon the world.
At the present time men are too busy with immediate concerns to think much about these matters; but when it is finally observed that the chief effect of "science" is to destroy itself along with the social foundations from which it sprang, there may come a time when it will be as suspect as it was in the Dark Ages. There are significant signs in that direction now. It is only the backward minds in science that are now identified with atheism; but its destructive potencies are rising to ever more superhuman heights, nevertheless, with the unfortunate culprits caught in the toils of their own Karma. Every belligerent country, for instance, is trying to develop the practical use of "U-235" with might and main; and every scientist engaged in the research is doing so with a cold and secret dread of the discovery in his heart. There are few scientists who do not question whether victory for their country is worth the extermination of half the population of the planet and the end of civilization; but they have no alternative. If all mankind must sink, then at least it is better that one's own land sink last. Such is the reasoning.
Dr. Watson, a scientist himself, has punctured the aloof pretenses made in behalf of science, in a manner even more drastic than did H. P. Blavatsky. Moreover, in the preparation of his volume, he had the aid of a surprising number of responsible and respected colleagues. His book is introduced by Dr. John Dewey.
Dr. Watson's misgivings arose from personal experience.For years before this book was even thought of, I had rubbed shoulders with what I might call the Pecksniffs of science, and had become convinced that the stainless "truth" which was supposed to result from their activities must have something "phoney" about it. This was my starting-point. I resolved to investigate the grounds of the discomfiture I had felt so long as I adhered to the belief that professional "science" would lead humanity to the promised land.... Professional scientists tacitly assume that the chief operations by which science is created are those which are performed before the footlights, in the laboratory or the study, and recorded so impressively in scientific publications. It is my thesis that what goes on within the personality of the discoverer (often without his knowledge) and in his interaction with his social setting, is just as important -- sometimes much more so.... The administrators who have controlled my scientific work, the men whose standards I have had to satisfy professionally, have, almost without exception, had a dash of the humbug in their composition.... In addition to this more patent sort of "skulduggery," I am challenging some of the most sacred canons to which even the greatest leaders of modern science adhere. (pp. xiii-xiv.)Curious as it may seem, the "relativity theory" seems to have been the point at which scientific thought, having reached futility externally, was forced to turn inward:That the scientist and his science are in a new sense inseparable is, then, the most significant fruit of the relativity theory. The three centuries of the modern scientific age began with a denial of this idea.... During the triumphant period of the application of this philosophy of observation, experiment, and mathematical interpretation, it was believed that a real divorce had been made between the constantly deceptive motions of the experimenter's mind and the results of his experiments.As a result of the impact of these discoveries, science is engaged in a "retreat to victory."
The new physics has forced us to conclude that this divorce is not complete. The father -- that is, the scientist -- and the child -- that is, the science he has made -- may indeed live apart. The child may grow up and run off. But he will always show in himself deep traces of the time when he lived in his father's household. That, furthermore, there might have been a mother, has escaped the pure asceticism of the scientific mind. (p. 2.)Science is trying to make a dignified retreat from its recent uncritical faith in the "objectivity" of the last century. Reassuring bulletins are issued describing this movement as an "advance." It is my belief that, when the retreat has been completed, scientific men will find that the majority of their ideas as to what constitute the valid sources of scientific truth will be found to be much more subtle and elusive than even the most emancipated of relativists is now willing to admit. (pp. 2-3.)Will the retreat end within the secure fortification of the awakened and self-realizing soul of man? Or in the deep blue sea of negation and an agnosticism toward science as much as toward religion? Without the guidance of real self-knowledge -- Theosophy -- it must of necessity be the latter. Science cannot of itself find the fundamental truth, even by retreating from error.
Philosophers -- habitually stigmatized as worthless dreamers by scientists -- have frequently been aware of the fallacy, even though ignorant of the truth.The scientists of the present decade have awakened from the metaphysical coma induced by the transcendent successes of mathematical physics in the nineteenth century. But they have merely begun to rediscover, gropingly, with the aid of their meters and symbols, what exasperated philosophers had long tried to tell them. The new thing was that this discovery was forced upon scientists by what they found in the laboratory. (p. 5.)The worshipper has begun to question.So long as we remain at the stage of "science is human," the priest-magician still remains at the altar, benignly ministering to the ignorance of the common herd. "Scientists are human" implies something much more radical. The lay worshipper has begun to doubt. He begins to sense that any fool, any knave, any impostor can go through the mysterious hocus-pocus, wear the impressive robes, blandly intone the liturgy. (p. 9.)It is a bitter reflection that precisely the greatest of all the fools, knaves, and impostors of scientific history, Ernst Hæckel, almost unique among scientific men in the actual faking of biological specimens as well as the faking of facts, is today, recognized or not, a dominant figure among the ignorant masses of science-worshippers.
The scientist cannot escape from the social influences of his era.Thus what our generation calls "science" at the present juncture of history, is an admixture of (1) "Laws" which seem to us to be true only because our minds and our social structure remain relatively stable during our own lifetime. These laws will have to be replaced or refined when culture moves into a new phase. (2) Laws which will withstand the shocks of radical changes in human personality and in social organization. These laws will be invariant with respect to social transformations as Einstein's equations were invariant with respect to changes of position, velocity, and acceleration. (p. 19.)Dr. Watson points out that while the conclusions of science are often arrived at by very devious means and obscure mental processes, nothing of this appears in the completed research, which is masked throughout by "logical decorum." Of course it is observed by the intelligent that men in general use their reason, not to arrive at conclusions, but to justify them when arrived at. Dr. Watson comes close to saying that the scientist does the same thing.
Some science is nearly fool-proof. The equations of motion of a freely-moving body, devised by Galileo, are likely to remain substantially as effective an instrument, regardless of whether Marx or Mussolini, Christ or Freud happens to be in the ascendant. At the other extreme, the psychiatric diagnosis of a mentally-sick person is obviously intimately relative to -- that is, dependent on -- the social philosophy of the analyst. Or the intelligence tests, which effectively estimate the fitness of a man to adjust himself to an English-speaking, highly-mechanized mode of life, fail even for the American immigrant or for the American who does not share the philosophy of "get-by-ism" -- still more so for the southern Negro or for the Maori who knows that Western civilization is going to the devil. (p. 19.)
He devotes considerable space to the peculiarities of the mind of the original discoverer, pointing out that the very qualities which tend toward real discovery, tend to suppress its recognition in an age of institutionalized science. First of all, solitude is necessary, in order that the individual may isolate himself from the currents of fixed and preconceived thought. But the mind which isolates itself, either physically or through abstraction from what goes on in the vicinity, is regarded as "queer," and in fact tends to become so.The scientist may withdraw from his fellow-men by going into actual physical solitude, or by cultivating the internal solitude of the man who has the power of being "alone in the midst of the crowd." Such an exceptional self-sufficiency will not be found except in an abnormal cast of mind. It is not, therefore, difficult to see other evidences of strange mentality in the lives of scientists of achievement -- either of some unduly precocious intelligence, or of a persistent, though often harmless, eccentricity. The frequently observed eccentricity of great scientists is due to their unfamiliarity with matters which fill the whole lives of ordinary men. The scientist cannot find time for the recurrent solitude which independent thought requires without losing touch, in some degree, with his fellows and the world of affairs. (pp. 27-28.)Moreover, sickness and scientific genius are very frequently allied. Dr. Watson thinks that this is because sickness tends to isolation. Undoubtedly this is true; but we think that sickness moreover also tends to bring a weakening of the lower and animal nature, thus conducing to abstract thinking. In true "yoga" a similar result is obtained without weakening of powers and without abnormality, simply by self-discipline mental and moral. Such self-discipline of course has been the means by which the great Adepts of all the ages have built up what we now call Theosophy.
The differences between scientific men of genius and the scientific "hod-carriers" who really dominate the cult, amount in fact to what is called insanity by the latter -- and by the public.In a sense the great man of science is necessarily "maladjusted." The great man travels out on his individual promontory of thought and experiment. To the onlooker there is nothing to show that his journey will not be fruitless. While a great idea is growing, only the faith of the scientist in his insight supports him. To the unsympathetic he is the victim of "delusions of grandeur." This indeed was the diagnosis of Robert Mayer by the physicians of the asylum where he was confined.Dr. Watson voluminously illustrates the miseries which scientific geniuses have had to undergo, and concludes:
What, then, is the difference between the man of genius and the mentally sick paranoiac? The difference is that, in the case of the great scientist or thinker, society eventually approves of his nonconformity. Society, despite delays, at length comes to see that the great man has flown not from reality, but to it. The great man discloses some respect in which not he, but society, was insane. Events prove that he, not his orthodox critics, was right. (p. 39.)The solitude, the queer behaviour, the ill health, maybe the (potential) mental unbalance all combine to delay his recognition by society and to make the Prometheus pattern a common one in science.In contemplating the reception of the great spiritual Teachers of all times, with special reference to the Mission of the present, this passage ought to have pungent value for every Theosophist.
It is the fate of the Promethean man to ignore the considerations of personal discretion in flouting the tabus of society and to pay the inevitable penalty -- the opposition of the established ideas, personages, and organizations, whose power is endangered by his discovery. It is the fate of the society to enjoy at length the fruit of his crime and torment. I do not mean to imply that the Prometheus pattern is the universal prototype of how science advances. But this mythological idea gives us a touchstone on which to test a new scientific discovery. The greatest works of science are surely those whose consummation required the most heroism and suffering. And the circumstances surrounding this tragic hero, who recurs again and again in the history of science, give us the clearest evidence that science is not, as it seems, something of lily-white purity which has discovered how to shed the fallibility of mankind. (pp. 42-43.)
Indeed, if a true disciple of that World-Scientist, Plato, or of that other World-Scientist, H. P. Blavatsky, were to write a critique of the orphaned orthodoxy that is "Science" today, the book would resemble nothing so much as "Scientists Are Human."
We quote three last statements of Dr. Watson's, which testify, in themselves, to his active intuition of "the principles involved":The sorest need of the modern scientist, and of the layman who looks to him for guidance, is a scepticism of formalistic thought and science. The attempt to fit all experience, even within a single field, into the mould of a system, is at root an attempt to make a thought-machine with standard replaceable parts.... (p. 231.)
Until science can incorporate within its framework the informal, unsystematic acquisitions of direct insight, it will continue to elevate the hypocrites and charlatans to positions of prestige, and to pollute the sources of truth in the name of "accuracy," "objectivity," measurement, and logical rigour.... (p. xv.)
The scientist of the future, if he is to develop resourcefulness for handling the unfamiliar and unique which stand outside his system, must be a man first, before he can be a scientist. (p. 235.)
Compiler's note: Before going on to the next article in this series, here is the one that the Editors pointed to in footnote number (1), entitled "FIGURES OF THE TRANSITION AGE". It is part 11 of a 12-part series (all the articles have the same name). This series is on the list of items that will eventually be added to this site.
Please note that there are two footnotes in this additional article. So that there is no confusion, I disregarded the numbers that were used in the original, and have here changed them so as to smoothly continue after the one footnote that is in the above article; they are numbered (2) and (3).
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 30, No. 3, January, 1942
FIGURES OF THE TRANSITION AGE
[Part 11 of 12]We, Theosophists, would willingly bow before such men of learning as the late Prof. Balfour Stewart, Messrs. Crookes, Quatrefages, Wallace, Agassiz, Butlerof, and several others, though we may not agree, from the standpoint of esoteric philosophy, with all they say. But nothing could make us consent to even a show of respect for the opinions of other men of science, such as Hæckel, Carl Vogt, or Ludwig Büchner, in Germany; or even of Mr. Huxley and his co-thinkers in materialism in England -- the colossal erudition of the first-named, notwithstanding. Such men are simply the intellectual and moral murderers of future generations; especially Hæckel, whose crass materialism often rises to the height of idiotic naivetés in his reasonings.FOLLOWING the traditional Aristotelian method of classification, modern thought has divided the age-old attempt to discover the nature of things into the broad fields of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. While it is true that these categories of knowledge generally correspond with definite principles or modes of knowing common to every man, the assumption that there can be scientific truth, without reference to either religion or philosophy, is the greatest delusion of our age. Human enterprise is always a search for the Good, and when we come to ask what, in reality, is the Good that men ought to strive after, the answer can be given only in terms of religion or religious philosophy.
--H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1888.
Accepted "scientific truth" contains a large (and increasing) admixture of the follies of mankind. Ideas which are intolerable heresies at a given point in the history of science may therefore sometimes be as near to the facts of Nature as ideas which do not then fall under the suspicion of "crankiness." ...
Scientific men only deceive themselves as to the value of their work if they try to avoid facing up to the demands of the often tragic life-course of the pioneer -- something that requires a nobility of temper and fineness of moral fibre. We have been led to believe in recent years that science draws its authority from a mechanical integrity, whereas, for the real scientist, it is a moral integrity that is the essence of the matter. A lack of understanding of this has produced an exquisite confusion, both within the gates of science and without, where, in the lay mind, the qualities of both science and scientist have been inferred to be those of the uninspired hod-carrier.
--DAVID LINDSAY WATSON, Scientists Are Human, 1938.
All history testifies to this essential truth. During the Kali Yug, when retribution for past action done in ignorance and selfishness is the prevailing pattern of Karmic law, the "Good" finds its most acceptable definition in the negative terms of liberation from suffering. Thus Buddhism, the greatest religion of our historical period, was shaped to meet the incessant cry of the personal man, "Why do I suffer?" leading him through stages of progressive awakening to the positive position taken by Buddha himself. Gautama Buddha, explains H. P. Blavatsky, was the first to give definite expression to the very old doctrine that "matter and its Protean manifestations are the source and origin of universal evil and sorrow." Only in its dead-letter meaning did Buddha's philosophy point to "the dark side of things on this illusive plane." The apparent pessimism of exoteric Buddhism had the object of releasing mankind from "too strong an attachment to life, which is the chief cause of Selfishness -- hence the creator of mutual pain and suffering." Thus Buddhism was in fact more philosophical than the later Gnostic doctrines which quite literally identified Evil with Matter itself, for it "shows evil immanent, not in matter, which is eternal, but in the illusions created by it: through the changes and transformations of matter generating life -- because these changes are conditioned and such life is ephemeral."
Like Buddhism, all subsequent religions and philosophies of influence have had for their central idea an explanation of the origin of evil or suffering. The facility with which Catholicism seemed to point out the causes of suffering, in both this world and the next was the real source of the power of the Church during its cycle of temporal rule. With the dying out of the philosophical schools, ecclesiastical authority was able to convince men that the forces of evil were personified in Satan, from whose clutches escape was possible only through the earthly representatives of a personal God. Despite the consistent record of betrayal of its ethical professions, the Church maintained psychological mastery over the West for more than ten centuries, aided by subtle moral compromises with human nature.
So long as the Christian explanation of evil was accepted, the energies of the faithful could be guided to priestly advantage. For every known crime, a "holy" justification was found, making its performance a religious duty. It was only necessary to call a man the "enemy of God" to stir all Christendom to his destruction. The extraordinary sacrifices of those who go into battle firmly convinced that every blow they strike lessens by that much the essential evil in the Cosmos cannot be understood except as the result of religious fervor. Mere material selfishness knows nothing of heroism. When Urban II wished to arouse European chivalry to wrest Jerusalem from its Moslem masters, he said nothing of the loot that Christian knights would find in pagan palaces. No; he called upon them to purge the world of a breed of oriental fiends--An accursed race ... estranged from God ... Even now the Turks are torturing Christians.... Yea, I speak now with the voice of the prophet,"Arm thyself, O mighty one!" Take up your arms, valiant sons, and go. Better fall in battle than live to see the sorrow of your people and the desecration of your holy places.As a special inducement to all "defenders of the faith," Urban promised complete absolution of the sins of those who lost their lives "in strife with the pagans." The appeal was irresistible, and it took hundreds of years and incalculable suffering for Europeans to learn that the Mohammedans were not monsters of depravity and irreligion, but only men, very much like themselves, although possessed of a much higher and more refined civilization.
Go, with One who lacks not the power greater than wealth to aid you. Lo, I see before you, leading you to His war, the standard bearer who is invisible -- Christ.(2)
No religion of the world has inspired so much intolerant fury and blind hatred as the Christian religion, and, as a consequence, nowhere in the world has the virus of materialism so deeply infected human society as among the Christian nations. The atheists were able to point to unspeakable crimes condoned by religious authority, to the transparent lies of the priests. It was natural for reformers to conclude that the root of all evil lay in the Church and its teaching. The skill with which sacerdotal manipulators of public opinion had directed the hatred of the masses was now adopted by the atheists and materialists, who turned it against religion itself. Destruction of faith in the supernatural became the watchword of social progress. For the truths taught by God, men substituted the authority of the "laws of Nature." Because the clergy had argued that God must be intelligent and all-wise, the materialists countered that Natural Law is the expression of blind necessity. Because religion held that man has a soul created by God, materialists denounced the very idea of soul as an enslaving dogma. Because the priests preached humility and submission to worldly masters as obedience to God's will, the militant atheists proclaimed the gospel of uprising and violent revolution.
Every virtue sanctioned by Christian tradition the materialists sooner or later identified as a vicious denial of the natural order. Mercy? What has the law of survival to do with this weak sentiment? Compassion is merely "the fellow feeling of the unsound." Care of the unfit was deplored as a humanitarian stupidity -- interference with the law of Natural Selection! Chastity? Away with this morbid restraint of instinct, this mother of complexes and inhibitions!
All these doctrines have become popular, not from any inherent attractiveness seen in them by normal men, but from the hatred of religion felt by fanatical materialists who believed that a blow against Church teaching, with any weapon that can be found, is a blow for humanity!
Modern scientific theory, in short, is not the natural outcome of unprejudiced research, but a warped system of half-truths that have been organized as much for polemical purposes in the struggle with religion as for the achievement of independent knowledge. And when the Church was no longer strong enough to be regarded as the "Enemy," the materialistic arsenal afforded its collection of miscellaneous "facts" to every demagogue who claimed to have discovered the "true" cause of human suffering. Like Christianity, Materialism has now a score or more of theologies, each with its devils to exorcise!
Prestige-bearing scientific figures were drafted as prophets of the religion of matter. Hæckel, whom H.P.B. called a "moral murderer of future generations," V. I. Lenin hailed as an apostle of freedom. No one will deny to Lenin a life of sacrifice for his fellows, yet see where he found the truths that would "make men free." In his philosophical defense of Marxism, he wrote:The storm which The Riddle of the Universe caused in all civilized countries showed ... the present social significance of the struggle of materialism against idealism and agnosticism.... Hundreds of thousands of copies of the book were printed. It was immediately translated into all languages and appeared in special popular editions. All this showed quite clearly that it had found its way to the masses, that there were masses of readers whom Hæckel had at once won over to his side. The popular little book became a weapon in the class struggle. The professors of philosophy and theology of all countries of the world began to denounce and "annihilate" Hæckel.... And quite characteristic of the whole tragi-comedy was the fact that Hæckel himself renounced materialism and rejected the name....Lenin cites all idealistic opposition to Hæckel as "proof" that ideological tendencies are manifestations of class attitudes; he calls The Riddle of the Universe a luminous exposition of the "triumphant march of naturo-historical materialism" during the nineteenth century, urging its further development. Only when naturalistic materialism is expanded into historical materialism, he argues, can it "serve as a really invincible weapon in the great struggle for the liberation of mankind."
This scientist, who expresses the firmest (albeit uncrystallized) opinions, moods and tendencies of the preponderant majority of naturalists at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, at one stroke, easily and simply revealed what the official philosophy tried to conceal. He showed that there is a base which becomes wider and firmer and beneath whose weight all efforts of the thousand and one little schools of idealism, positivism, realism, empirio-criticism and other confusionism are smashed. This base is naturo-historical materialism.... Hæckel does not enter into an analysis of strictly philosophical problems as such and cannot contrast the materialistic and idealistic theories of knowledge. He ridicules all idealistic philosophies, especially all contrivances of "special" schools from the point of view of science, without admitting the possibility of any other theory of knowledge besides that of naturo-historical materialism. He ridicules the philosophers from the standpoint of a materialist, without being aware that he himself holds the viewpoint of a materialist! (Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, pp. 302-305.)
Here, in this last passage, we discover the real energy of the materialistic movement. Its doctrines have been transmitted as a sacred trust by men consecrated to liberating downtrodden humanity. The theory of the class struggle identified all idealism and spiritual teachings with reactionary apologetics for capitalist exploitation, reducing the problem of the origin of evil to the simple terms necessary for mass understanding and mass action.
A contemporary prophet of doom has said truly that "the people" require simplicity for both their loves and their hates. The masses always follow the leader with simple explanations, uncomplicated by "ifs" and "buts," being easily persuaded to heap contempt upon the cautious intellectuals with sanguine doubts. Humanitarians who feel that revolution is not the way of progress have no affirmative teaching to meet the demands of the human heart, no alternative explanation of the origin of evil. Veils of agnosticism cover their eyes, blinding them to the one truth that is capable of withstanding the passionate demands of hatred and destruction. That truth was taught, and understood by the "masses," twenty-five centuries ago:Today, as in Buddha's time, this simple explanation can be understood by all. It lacks only teachers.Ye suffer from yourselves. None else compels,
None other holds you that ye live and die,
And whirl upon the wheel,...
Within yourselves deliverance must be sought;
Each man his prison makes.
The modern world has imprisoned itself in the black dungeon of materialism, and, like convicts become mad with longing for the sight of day, the nations are cutting one another's throats. Taught for nearly a century that "Self-preservation" is the first law of Nature, mankind has now to learn the bitter lesson of its practice. Theosophy was brought to the world to reveal the ethical application of this law, by showing, as H. P. Blavatsky wrote,that this pseudo law is a "pretended" law indeed, as far as the human family is concerned, and a fiction of the most dangerous kind. "Self-preservation," on these lines, is indeed and in truth a sure, if a slow, suicide, for it is a policy of mutual homicide, because men by descending to its practical application among themselves, merge more and more by a retrograde reinvolution into the animal kingdom. This is what the "struggle for life" is in reality, even on the purely materialistic lines of political economy. Once that this axiomatic truth is proved to all men; the same instinct of self-preservation only directed into its true channel will make them turn to altruism -- as their surest policy of salvation. (THEOSOPHY I, 201.) [Note: This is an excerpt from her article entitled "The Theosophical Society: Its Mission and Its Future". --Compiler.]But how can Altruism be expected of a civilization whose leading educators proclaim that modern knowledge has made intelligible ethics impossible? The content of a recent series of lectures on "Ethics and Modern Life" is described by a writer in Science:The first title was "The Dilemma of Modern Ethics." The dilemma seemed to be that there is no way by which the problem of human conduct could even be considered. Ideas just don't have any contact with action, and every term that is used is a dilemma in itself. The second lecture was on "The Venture of Moral Philosophy." The venture appeared to be that it was most extraordinary that anyone would have the temerity to even try to do anything about conduct. The third lecture had to do with the divergence of theory and practice in which it was again brought out that it is practically impossible to bring ideas to bear upon the world of fact and experience. In the fourth lecture entitled, "The Modern Experiment; Ideas and Immediate Experience," it looked as if the lecturer were going to arrive at something which at least faintly resembled an effective approach to the problem, the scientific approach, if you please. The startling concept was advanced that possibly ideas could be brought to bear on immediate experience. In the last lecture of the series however, entitled "The Persistent Tension in Experience and Morals," the idea was given up and it was indicated that the whole matter was in a condition of confusion, futility, and conflict. It gave no real hope to the human race for ever doing anything effective in directly meeting their problems in the improvement of social and moral relationships which is so necessary if civilization is to continue. Yet this authority in the field of ethics received nearly $6.00 a minute for bringing his audience to such a state of confusion and impression of futility. (Science, September 12, 1941.)Years ago, H. P. Blavatsky predicted this outcome for the false idealism which attempts to found rules of conduct on materialism. "The Monists," she wrote, "are worse than the Materialists; because, while looking at the Universe and psycho-spiritual man from the same negative standpoint, the latter put their case far less plausibly than sceptics of Mr. Tyndall's or even Mr. Huxley's stamp." Frank materialism ends in logical absurdity, illustrated today in the extreme theories of Freud and Watson. But modern Idealism "not only contrives to absorb, on the one hand, the basic negations of Atheism, but lands its votaries in a tangle of unreality which culminates in a practical Nihilism." (S.D. I, 528; II, 651.) The ethical nihilism of scientific psychology, more than any other single cause, has delivered mankind into the hands of the political nihilists, the scavengers of moral failure and rampant selfishness.
Musing on the moral weaknesses of modern society, Dr. Edwin G. Conklin, an eminent biologist, wonders why "scientists did not win the freedom they have generally enjoyed," observing that "they have not been conspicuous in defending this freedom when it has been threatened." Acknowledging some notable exceptions, he attributes the moral mediocrity of scientists in general to the fact that there is nothing in science itself which cultivates the heroic spirit. The scientist "has little inclination to suffer and die for his faith but is willing to wait for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Almost pathetically, Dr. Conklin asks:How can men be induced to live up to the best they know? How can they be brought to substitute the spirit of service for selfishness, love for hate, reason for unreason? The long efforts of past centuries show that there is no rapid solution of this great problem. (Science, December 31, 1937.)First step in this solution is honest recognition that many of the teachings of science lead men logically to embrace selfishness in preference to service, and to forget "the best they know." Next it is necessary to question the very foundations of the scientific theory of knowledge, which maintains that the moral qualities of the scientific investigator play no part in the results of his research. To this day, partisan zeal for conflicting theories is defended as leading to actual knowledge. In a recent text on the several schools of modern psychology -- that most chaotic and unorganized of the social sciences -- it is cheerfully affirmed:The most intolerant schools are often the most productive; and loyalties, aversions, and strongly emotional prejudices may operate in the production of impersonal truth. For the product of scientific thought is identifiable neither with the means nor with the conditions of its production; and it is the product that is impartial and impersonal. The scientific method is a device for making it so, regardless of the conditions that motivated its acquisition.(3)This claim of infallibility for the scientific method of research, independent of the faults or foibles of investigators, is simply a reincarnation of sacerdotalism, as destructive of freedom of thought as any unprovable religious dogma. It is this claim which scientists themselves must renounce as an incredible delusion, before there can be even the beginnings of a philosophy of life which is both ethical and scientific.
Are there any signs of a movement in this direction?
In 1939 a young theoretical physicist, at one time a teacher at Antioch College, published a book which may be regarded as marking a great turning point in the scientific theory of knowledge. The thesis of this book, Scientists Are Human, by David Lindsay Watson, is that every scientific theory is shaped and colored by the moral qualities of its creator, and that true progress in scientific knowledge is as dependent on right motive as any other enterprise. Mr. Watson predicts radical reforms in the scientific method of the future.Science [he writes] is trying to make a dignified retreat from its recent uncritical faith in the "objectivity" of the last century. Reassuring bulletins are issued describing this movement as an "advance." It is my belief that, when the retreat has been completed, scientific men will find that the majority of their ideas will have to be surrendered. The sources of scientific truth will be found to be much more subtle and elusive than even the most emancipated of the relativists is now willing to admit. (pp. 2-3.)What, in the view of this writer, are the conditions necessary to the increase of knowledge? Mr. Watson argues that the ethical conceptions and social ideals of society always determine the truth-content of scientific theories, which is the same as saying that ethical values are primary to knowledge of any kind. This is the process:The social forces select certain of the scientist's abilities and aptitudes for approval. The social organization acts as a filter on the scientific results which are candidates for recognition. Where the belief and the practice of the society are sound, this practice leads to scientific truth. Where the social features of scientific organization are faulty or based on something other than love of truth (for instance, on the demands of stability, power, or ambition), this selecting process will lead to error. But this sort of error will have, in the eyes of all except intellectually honest insiders, all the authority of scientific tradition behind it. (p. 50.)We have seen, to take some examples, the social forces which "selected" the Hæckelian theory of evolution for the central dogma of "scientific socialism." We have watched how the scientific orthodoxy of the present day has received in silence the alternative to the ape-origin theory, proposed, with numerous supporting facts, by Dr. Osborn. Today we listen to recitations by ethical theorists on the futility of all their undertakings. Our ignorance of fundamentals is praised as a fine "impartiality" which refuses to adopt any principles on which an ethical attitude might be based.
These are only a few pertinent illustrations, taken from an inexhaustible store, which show how dogmatic presuppositions and fallacious theories are elevated to the high authority of scientific "truth." Mr. Watson offers many more, drawn chiefly from the world of institutional science, where originality must overcome the stubbornest kind of moral and intellectual inertia before recognition can be obtained. But with publication of Scientists Are Human, there is at least the beginning of self-consciousness and self-criticism among scientists themselves. For the past decade or so, there has been a growing realization in scientific circles that actual knowledge involves much more than mere physical measurement, and now this writer makes it quite clear that the great "Method" of science requires the guidance that only ethical philosophy can provide.
"We are now in a transition period," wrote William Q. Judge in an important Path article, predicting that "in the twentieth century there will be a revival of genuine philosophy, and the Secret Doctrine will be the basis of the 'New Philosophy'." Scientists Are Human should be read carefully by Theosophical students, as marking a significant mile-post along the road to this desired end. As other thoughtful minds develop the many implications of the thesis proposed by Mr. Watson, its truth will become more and more evident, until, finally, the advanced thinkers of the race will have constructed a natural meeting-ground for Science and Theosophic principles. When that day arrives, the "New Philosophy" will be born.
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
DULY ESTABLISHED CHANNELS
(Part 96 of a 103-part series)
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THREE (3) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) London: Watts and Co., 1938. (See "Figures of the Transition Age," THEOSOPHY, January, 1942.) [Note: I have included a copy of this article. It follows the one that you are now reading. --Compiler]
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Reminder: The following footnotes, numbers (2) and (3), are from the additional article. I discarded their numbers used in the originals so that there would be no confusion here. I simply changed the numbers so as to smoothly continue on from the one footnote that is in the first article, which is above. --Compiler.
(2) Harold Lamb, The Crusades, pp. 41-2.
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(3) Edna Heidbreder, Seven Psychologies, 1933, p. 428.
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