THEOSOPHY, Vol. 32, No. 4, February, 1944
(Pages 176-179; Size: 13K)
(Number 98 of a 103-part series)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
CONTROVERSY CONCERNING CANYONS
THE scientific world often exhibits a curious lack of economy in the expenditure of intellectual energy; namely, in elaborate resistance to explanations which are much simpler than the arguments used against them, and, as usually is the case, more in accordance with the facts. In the economy of nature, the simpler of two explanations, evidence being equal, is the more probable.
The presence of sea shells and water-deposited stone in mountains some thousands of feet above sea level would seem to be most simply explained by assuming that the mountain formations had once been below sea level. Correspondingly, the existence of huge submarine valleys of typical river-cut topography thousands of feet below sea level, is most simply explained by assuming that the ocean bottoms in question had once been above sea level. Other than that both assumptions are very important in Theosophical philosophy -- in fact their truth is vital to it -- it is hard to see any other reason for the astonishing scientific resistance to these ideas, except for sheer mental inertia. But this inertia paradoxically produces an amazing expenditure of controversial energy. Not unlikely there is a subconscious feeling of insecurity aroused by facing a scheme of things in which -- from the point of view of geological time -- continents bob up and down like ducks.
This presents no great difficulty to the Theosophical student who is trained to think in such enormous scales of time that the passing of a solar system is "a wink of the Eye of Eternity"; but it may be a more formidable psychological factor in other people than he supposes.
In Science for September 3, 1943, Dr. Francis R. Shepard, of the University of California, pays some thoroughgoing disrespects to current cases of scientific myopia on this problem:For some years the discovery of the great submarine canyons along the oceanic slopes off the east coast filled many of the outstanding geological theorists with misgivings. They were less disturbed by the deeply submerged canyons with the characteristics of river valleys off California, since this coast was well known to be unstable, but river canyons off the supposedly stable east coast were unthinkable; and to make matters worse, charts were showing that submarine canyons were practically universal. Assuredly the continents of the world could not all have been moving up and down many thousands of feet during the late part of geological time. Into the breach at the critical moment stepped a series of maps of outstanding workmanship which appear to have taken at least the eastern part of the country by storm.... Even Life magazine recently reproduced a picture of this model with mention in garbled form of one of the new hypotheses.Dr. Shepard's comments come close to a charge of faking:The contours, as both Veatch and Smith have frankly admitted, are based on the hypothesis that the submarine slopes have a stream-cut type of topography. Accordingly, the contours show a great mass of gullies and valleys even out at the greatest depths where there are few soundings. These small valleys shown on the maps have been seized on eagerly without any apparent attempt to determine their basis and are now established as the piece de resistance of three new hypotheses advocating submarine origin of the canyons.... Regarding these contours one must admit in all fairness that they represent long painstaking effort. Certainly it would have been difficult to fit stream-dissected slope topography more perfectly into the soundings than has been done. On the other hand, the contouring could have been executed with the same care in attempting to show what actually existed out on these submarine slopes off the east coast. That this was not done is indicated by the fact that the same soundings were contoured by a series of six topographers and geologists of the U.S. Geological Survey and by the present writer and his co-worker, I. O. Emery, and in no case did these closely spaced small valleys appear in the contoured maps which resulted. Instead of these myriads of gullies a series of relatively large canyons (shown also by Veatch and Smith) are revealed on the slopes. The canyons are of the type which recent theories have so meticulously avoided.Dr. Shepard's criticisms will be especially appreciated by engineers who have dealt with the problem of making contour maps from scattered elevation points. To be mild, let us say that such problems give wide scope to the use of the imagination, and that Messrs. Veatch and Smith appear to have been the victims of imagination plus enthusiasm -- for their particular theory. It is a pity that the energy could not have been expended in a positive rather than negative manner.
There are, according to Dr. Shepard, three hypotheses which seek to explain submarine canyons and subsidence of the lands:
(a) Offshore currents of muddy, dense water running along the bottom down the slopes.
(b) Artesian springs.
(c) Tidal waves.
Dr. Shepard disposes of these with technical arguments which need not be repeated here. They appear to us to be quite irrefutable. He concludes:Despite the enthusiastic abandonment of the river erosion hypothesis by these recent writers the facts continue to favor the idea. All the detailed surveys of the submarine canyons have revealed distinctly river valley characteristics. Characteristically these canyons the world over are V-shaped, steep rock-walled, winding valleys with branching tributaries. A very large per cent are located off river mouths and some of them are obviously submarine continuations of land canyons. The explored canyons off California contain numerous rounded pebbles even at depths as great as one mile below sea level. Many other observations indicate the submergence of the land margins. The case may not be rigidly established, but it is substantial and should not be thrown aside just because it presents a difficulty in the path of certain preconceived hypotheses. It is to be hoped that if there are future suggestions of causes of submarine canyons, they will be evolved after a careful study of the facts or preferably after field investigation of the canyons.It seems then that the continents of the world have all been "moving up and down many thousands of feet during the late part of geological time."
Theosophically, in the fact that they have been doing so, lies a major part of the reason why civilization is apparently only a few thousand years old. In reality, officially-accepted historical and "prehistoric" times do not represent the rise of man and his civilization de novo, but represent instead a very localized cycle, broken off (except in tradition and in the records of "those who know") by huge submersions and migrations; some gradual, some violent.
No doubt Dr. Shepard himself would find difficulty in accepting the propositions (a) that continents and sea bottoms exchange elevations from time to time in the succession of geological evolution, and (b) that man himself has witnessed such changes. But man himself is older, and the continents younger, than held at present, and the recognition of this is now not far off.
Meantime it will do no harm to repeat the true order of evolution of the continental masses, as set forth in the Secret Doctrine:It is proposed ... to call the first continent, or rather the first terra firma on which the first Race was evolved by the divine progenitors:It is often mentioned that the "last serious change" occurred 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, bringing with it disasters of tremendous import to man, though not as great as some of previous times. As these lesser changes ride on a cycle of 26,000 to 27,000 years, and the next one will put an end to all of Europe except a few mountains which will remain as islands, the remaining duration of the European cycle can easily be computed.
I. "The Imperishable Sacred Land." ... This "Sacred Land" is said never to have shared the fate of the other continents; because it is the only one whose destiny is to last from the beginning to the end of the Manvantara throughout each Round....
II. The "HYPERBOREAN" will be the name chosen for the Second Continent, the land which stretched out its promontories southward and westward from the North Pole to receive the Second Race, and comprising the whole of what is now known as Northern Asia....
III. The third Continent, we propose to call "Lemuria." The name is an invention, or an idea, of Mr. P. L. Sclater, who asserted, between 1850 and 1860, on zoological grounds the actual existence, in prehistoric times, of a Continent which he showed to have extended from Madagascar to Ceylon and Sumatra. It included some portions of what is now Africa; but otherwise, this gigantic Continent, which stretched from the Indian ocean to Australia, has now wholly disappeared beneath the waters of the Pacific, leaving here and there only some of its high-land tops which are now islands....
IV. "Atlantis" is the Fourth Continent. It would be the first historical land, were the traditions of the ancients to receive more attention than they have hitherto. The famous island of Plato of that name was but a fragment of this great Continent.
V. The Fifth Continent was America; but, as it is situated at the Antipodes, it is Europe and Asia Minor, almost coeval with it, which are generally referred to by the Indo-Aryan Occultists as the fifth.... The Secret Doctrine takes no account of islands and peninsulas, nor does it follow the modern geographical distribution of land and sea. Since the day of its earliest teachings and the destruction of the great Atlantis, the face of the earth has changed more than once. There was a time when the delta of Egypt and Northern Africa belonged to Europe, before the formation of the Straits of Gibraltar, and a further upheaval of the continent, changed entirely the face of the map of Europe. The last serious change occurred some 12,000 years ago, and was followed by the submersion of Plato's little Atlantic island, which he calls Atlantis after its parent continent.
By its end, there will have come into being far greater civilizations in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, Europe has not yet reached its noonday, which will appear some three or four thousand years hence; though the immediate future may well be a new "Dark Age" of a thousand years or more ... unless some lessons are speedily grasped, of which signs are very faint at present, either in Europe or the Americas.
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
THE RETURN OF THE GIANTS
(Part 99 of a 103-part series)
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