THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 3, January, 1928
(Pages 109-112; Size: 14K)
THE SCIENTIFIC MIND
THE lofty impatience of the scientific mind when confronted with the fundamental truths of Theosophy is very difficult to deal with, by one desiring to help that mind, as represented in some student of science with whom he has come in contact.
First is the difficulty of terminology. The student of science sees perfectly good and natural reasons why his study should have its own terms of expression: "That is scientific," he affirms. But that Theosophy should have its terminology is apparently incomprehensible to him. Again, he has usually read quite casually a few Theosophical books, a genuine grasp of which would actually require years of thoughtful study, accompanied by a conscious application in daily life of the promulgated ethics. Yet he believes he has understood not only the terms, but the teachings also; and proceeds to belabor the dummy figure he has erected under the name "Theosophy," which he denominates "stuff and nonsense."
It is that -- no less! But it is not Theosophy. Yet off goes our scientific student in full cry, looking for some other "cult" to "ventilate." He is able to upset them all, in his own surpassingly wise opinion. If he brought to his own specialty, however, the same superficiality and the same spirit of intolerance and negation that he brings to these other investigations, he would be laughed at and hooted out of court by his scientific fellows.
Quite recently one of the ripest scientific minds in America expressed itself somewhat as follows: "Oh yes, I have read books by H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge; but when the latter tells me that all is Maya -- nothing is real -- I know he is wrong, because the evidence of my own senses proves the contrary." Such an expression in itself demonstrates the primary failure of this scientific mind to understand even terms, to say nothing of the teaching itself. His grasp was so superficial and his attitude so hostile that he did not recognize the conclusions of his own present-day science in Mr. Judge's repetition of a statement of age-old science. Such incidents are of frequent occurrence; yet "scholars" continue to wonder why students of Theosophy appear to hold many scientists in light esteem!
Another scientist was shocked when Mr. Judge spoke of the "cycle of the sun," pointing out with the sternest sort of accuracy that such a phrasing is scientifically impossible, since the earth circles the sun. It is to be presumed that in popular and non-scientific conversation this meticulous critic never himself speaks of a "sun-rise" or a "sunset!" It was he also who, upon hearing a Theosophical student remark that Sanskrit is an exact language -- every letter corresponding to a sound, a color and a number -- replied that he himself had studied Sanskrit, and knew otherwise. Needless to state, his knowing was otherwise! Yet even modern science demonstrates that every vibration sets the "ether" into motion, and that many people "see" sounds and "hear" colors.
Every former university man who has at all kept up with scientific progress during the past ten years knows that the "science" which was taught to him is long since exploded. It has been proven impossible in the light of new facts and discoveries. Yet all that was fact then is fact now; it is the addition of new facts that has upset the old theories. In those days, however, an "authority" was just as sacred and not to be questioned as are the "authorities" of today. Theosophy has not changed any, and is just as honestly and sanely demonstrable as ever. Still scientific minds are puzzled and resentful when Theosophists are observed indulging in a quiet and good-humored smile at them!
Is there some way in which the positions of the Scientist and the Theosophist can be stated, with honesty towards both, and in such terms that the Scientist can sense the fatal relativity of his science? If the latter is willing to admit that perhaps there are some things which he does not know, and which his science has not yet "discovered," then there is a possibility.
First: All the facts that science has established as such are included in Theosophy. The Theosophist not only admits them; he affirms them. They are not new, or newly discovered -- even the very latest of the brood. This can be proven beyond question by an intelligent investigation of present and old-time Theosophical writings. It means work-- lots of it -- but any Scientist who denies the truth of the statement, without investigation, thereby indicts himself as no honest searcher for truth. He is pretending to be informed when he is not informed. Incidentally, such an investigation will bring him a richer reward than a lifetime's devotion to science.
Second: No present scientific theory to account for any set of facts is wholly correct, though some approximate the truth. In the light of new "discoveries" announced almost daily, this should be self-evident. But should any Scientist object, it can be affirmed that any Theosophist can upset, demonstrably to the Scientist, any existing scientific theory. It can be shown by logical reasoning and a consideration of all the facts to be radically wrong, or only partial.
Third: Science is a study of phenomena, of effects. Theosophy is a study of noumena, of causes. Science follows the Aristotelian method of reasoning; Theosophy the Platonic, from primary self-evident truths. Reasoning from effect to cause is a proven cripple down the ages, and is quite as lame and ineffective today. The Platonic method, if carried through to its ultimate conclusions, proves itself sound.
Fourth: The scientist depends upon his physical senses for his "proof positive." These are demonstrably so tricky and undependable that they are never anything but approximate. The fact is, sense perceptions in no two persons are the same. The Theosophist knows the physical senses for what they are. He uses them, but is not used by them.
Fifth: No Scientist knows how he perceives anything whatever by means of the senses, nor how he thinks about what he has perceived, nor what ideas are, nor where they come from, nor how he happens to have them. He can describe portions of the outward aspects of some of the processes involved, but that is in no sense knowledge of the how or why -- any more than to name a thing is to explain it. The Theosophist does know the how and why. He can prove this fact to the Scientist if the latter will but acquire the preliminary knowledge essential to the understanding of such proof: it is just as impossible otherwise as to try to demonstrate a problem involving trigonometry to a boy who is just beginning to study arithmetic.
Sixth: The Theosophist knows all that the Scientist knows. He also knows some things that the Scientist does not know -- things not knowable by the present methods of physical science. Knowledge of these "some things," being basic and not relative, places the things-known-in-common in an altogether different relation from that in which they appear to the Scientist. Hence the difficulty, and often impatience, of the latter in comprehending the point of view of the Theosophist. It is as if a problem of three factors, all of which were known to one student, were presented to another student who is aware of but two of them. The latter cannot solve it, nor even credit the fact that it can be solved: he considers student number one hallucinated.
Seventh: The Scientist refuses to avail himself of already existing knowledge, unless acquired and promulgated by an accepted modern authority who has worked out his conclusions by methods acceptable to modern science. The Theosophist does not thus limit his horizon. Hence he finds evidences that the problems of life and nature have all been worked out with infallible accuracy ages ago, and that those True Scientists of old have not only left Their records, but Themselves exist. Furthermore, he has discovered that Their School is available to those who approach it with unselfish motives; but it should be understood that its curriculum relates, not to the training of the intellect alone, but to the rounded development of the entire nature of the pupil -- with stern discipline, self-imposed, along moral and spiritual lines. With Them, scientific knowledge -- using the word "scientific" in the modern sense -- is merely a by-product, incidental to the acquirement of self-knowledge.
Caution: When the term "Theosophist" is used in the foregoing, reference is not had to membership in some society, nor to an adherent of any religion or sect, nor to the thousand-and-one student-learners connected with any and every body of Theosophical students -- and most certainly not to any living "theosophical leader." The term as used refers to any man or woman who has passed his or her "Third Initiation." Should any student of science read this article, let him pause before concluding that this phrase demonstrates the un-sanity, if not in-sanity, of the writer. It is a part of the Theosophical terminology.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THEOSOPHY VS. SCIENCE
Neither the Occultists generally, nor the Theosophists, reject, as erroneously believed by some, the views and theories of the modern scientists, only because these views are opposed to Theosophy. The first rule of our society is to render unto Cæsar what is Cæsar's. The Theosophists, therefore, are the first to recognize the intrinsic value of science. But when its high priests resolve consciousness into a secretion from the grey matter of the brain, and everything else in nature into a mode of motion, we protest against the doctrine as being unphilosophical, self-contradictory, and simply absurd, from a scientific point of view, as much and even more than from the occult aspect of the esoteric knowledge. --S.D., I, p. 296.
The chief difficulty which prevents men of science from believing in divine as well as in nature Spirits is their materialism. The main impediment before the Spiritualist which hinders him from believing in the same, while preserving a blind belief in the "Spirits" of the Departed, is the general ignorance of all, except some Occultists and Kabalists, about the true essence and nature of matter. It is on the acceptance or rejection of the theory of the Unity of all in Nature, in its ultimate Essence, that mainly rests the belief or unbelief in the existence around us of other conscious beings besides the Spirits of the Dead. It is on the right comprehension of the primeval Evolution of Spirit-Matter and its real essence that the student has to depend for the further elucidation in his mind of the Occult Cosmogony, and for the only sure clue which can guide his subsequent studies. --S.D., I, p. 276.
The Credential of H. P. Blavatsky