The Theosophical Forum – August 1936

MAN AND HIS VITAMINS — Arthur A. Beale

In the great epic of man's evolution, from the time when the spark was thrown off from the inscrutable yet all-comprehending "Self or "That," "concerning which speculation is impossible" on the upward pilgrimage through all the kingdoms until the human, we have a concept of the building up into a single entity of the combination of all these kingdoms. Man is a composite of these kingdoms in that he retains basic fundamental structures, though not in their pristine state. They are humanized, elevated, ennobled.

In this process all the intervening kingdoms are benefited; their evolving entities are not only integral parts of man, but essential to his very existence as an entity. In the matter of health, without the proper basic salts his bodily tissues degenerate and die. Every cell holds a modicum of potash, soda, calcium, iron, magnesium, sulphur, silica, and phosphorus, and the cells themselves represent the vegetable stage of evolution. The vegetable, animal, and human cells are almost identical. Remarkable analogies exist between the unfolding of a rose and that of a human embryo, or between the growth of hair and that of moss or lichen.

The animal circulatory and lymphatic systems are only an advanced form of the vascular system of plants by which sap, the vegetable "blood," is carried upward to the vital units where its elements are manufactured, and then downward, charged with nutritive elements to be stored in the roots, tubers, etc. Sir Jagadis Bose, the East Indian "magician," shows that the nervous systems in higher kingdoms are inaugurated in the plants, which are susceptible to poison and to drugs. For instance, a dose of digitalis will resuscitate a flagging plant.

The nearest analog to the marvelous endocrine system in man — the ductless glands — seems to be found in the vegetable world in the Vitamins, which might be described as the psychological factors of plants. They are the higher controlling factors, and in their further evolution in beasts and man are essential to the physiological functions, growth, and even reproduction. Vitamins are essential in the story of the psycho-mental apparatus, which is a ray from the spiritual ego, itself a knot in the golden cord of consciousness coming in interrupted sequences from the divine Self.

May not these vitamins be electro-magnetic units, intimately connected with the vital processes in man, beast, and plants? So intimate is the connexion between the vitamins and the endocrine glands that without a sufficiency of the former the glands would cease to function, and would die. This is especially true in regard to the pituitary gland, the hierarch of all the others. Is it a stretch of the imagination to trace in the vitamins the factors of the elemental kingdoms working in the higher kingdoms?

Once more we seem to have a confirmation of the ancient teaching that man contains the universe within himself. We see in man the "end organ" of the involuted spiritual consciousness of all the realms above him, and the evolved product of those below. He is the "end organ" of the Lokas and the Talas, the two complementary conditions of consciousness, involving spiritual involution and material evolution, the Lokas descending and the Talas ascending in their struggle upwards and towards the Monadic "Soul-Being," each absorbing each, each essential in its own nature to the other, once more demonstrating the circulations of the Cosmos.

Science recognises six vitamins so far, listed alphabetically A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. G is often described as a variety of B and called B2. Each has its special realm of activity or control, but its effects are felt in the various bodily tissues. Let us relate the vitamins to the embryo. In its evolution three envelopes, three layers, are formed, each layer evolving separate systems of tissue-elements, called the epiblast, mesoblast, and hypoblast, the outer, middle and inner germ. The outermost layer evolves the epithelial cells of the skin, brain, and nervous system, the lining of the mouth and sense organs, and the glands of the skin. These structures are connected with vitamin A, and disturbances are produced in them by a deficiency in that vitamin. Vitamin D is sponsor for the middle layer, from which come the bony and muscular systems and the generative, urinary and circulatory systems. It controls the supply of lime and phosphates and is essential for mothers and for healthy blood. The innermost layer evolves the lining of the lungs, the alimentary tract, the bladder and urethra, and the important thyroid and thymus glands. Here vitamin B plays its part by giving vigor to alimentation and respiration, and controlling oxidation. Deficiency in vitamin B leads to diabetes, atony of the bowels, neurasthenia, faulty alimentation, loss of weight, etc. These three vitamins form the tripod of physiological life. The others, not thoroughly analysed or understood at present, can be regarded as offshoots or handmaids of these three. Vitamins C and G (B2) are a complex of B, and seem to control the same functions in a larger field of action. Vitamins B and G (B2) have the special difference that one is destroyed by a slight amount of heat while the other is not. Deficiency in vitamin B leads to Beri-Beri, prevalent in Brazil, India, and Japan, an infectious disease described as producing multiple neuritis. Deficiency in vitamin B2 produces pellagra with digestive disturbance complicated with skin symptoms. A supply of the appropriate vitamin removes the symptoms. Vitamin E is apparently connected with the mesoblast or middle layer, and is always found in seeds, grains, nuts, etc. It is necessary for cell-division, the development of the embryo, and for the growth of the young of man or animal. Its deficiency contributes to sterility and sets up degenerative changes in the anterior pituitary body.

Without going into further details of their action, let us consider their place in nature. As vegetable elements they must be relegated to that kingdom, notwithstanding the fact that animal fats, especially cod liver oil, are the most fruitful sources of supply of vitamin D! But this "oil-soluble" product can be traced to the kelp beds which are frequented by codfish on the Newfoundland coast. It is not true, as formerly stated, that vitamin D can only be found in animal products, for rats fed entirely on avocados show no vitamin degeneration, which they certainly would if vitamin D were absent. It is conceivable that whatever produces vitamin D in the vegetable kingdom, is somewhat different from its product in the higher kingdoms, but let us remember that it is in itself a product of sunlight and is nearly related to the ultra-violet radiation from the sun, without which physical life could not be sustained on this planet. Vitamin D is closely related to sun-tanning, and to the production of Viasterol, one of the sterols mentioned by a recent explorer as leading to the discovery of the elixir of life sought by the alchemists! It would seem that we are nearing the discovery of some of "Nature's finer forces" known to our ancestors but "lost awhile."

Does it not seem that science is finding in the vitamins — though it can hardly be expected to admit it just yet — vital units of an astral nature, not merely material chemical elements, whose existence is best determined by their action on living processes and whose absence is estimated by unfavorable reactions on life and consciousness? In other words, are we not entering a realm where scientists will have to discard the cast-iron dictum that nothing can be recognised but that which has the sanction of the senses using the mechanistic methods of mensuration, chemical reaction, and the like? Vitamins that cannot be seen, tasted, or isolated in their purity, can be administered to patients and will produce the expected reaction. This position has been reached by logical mental processes, the deductions made from unexpected phenomena, not by the process of experimenting with known material and demonstrating a preconceived hypothesis.

There can no longer be any doubt that the endocrine system in animals is not independent of vitamins. It has been found, for instance, that the pituitary gland is not the only one that is rich in them; all those organs like the liver, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys, where all the active assimilative processes are carried out, are saturated with vitamins, and these again are dependent for their formation and activity on the appropriate mineral salts. So we could paraphrase the old Hermetic saying thus: Without the mineral there could be no vegetable, without the vegetable there could be no animal, without the animal there could be no human, and without the human there could be no gods!

What then is the signification of man? Man is the very pivot of evolution. In man we sound the very depths of "hell," the darkest and crudest forms of matter. Man uses as his yarn the grossest principle in nature, Kama, desire or passion, as Dr. G. de Purucker has recently emphasized; and from Kama man makes his warp and woof and constructs from it a divine fabric — that is to say, man as a thinking, spiritual being. However, man, beginning with a birthright of divinity as an un-self-conscious god-spark, descends into material existence in order to gain self-consciousness and the individual powers of mind. And humanity, having reached the depths of materiality, has begun now to ascend the upward arc whereon Perfected man attains to godhood. In the lower kingdoms "Desire" or the kamic principle acts as "instinct"; in man, when kama acts with the lower mind, the results are selfish, ignoble, cruel, and sometimes perverted. But when man's desire acts with his higher mind, he becomes noble, unselfish, aspiring and illuminated. As Krishna says in The Bhagavad-Gita: "In the hearts of all men I am desire, regulated by moral fitness."


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