The Theosophical Forum – Spetember 1938


In many respects astronomical cosmology seems to be at variance with the more philosophical prospects discovered by the great Sages of Antiquity and imbodied in The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky. Nor is this a new feature. In the Phaedo of Plato, Socrates declares himself unable to understand the science of his time. And not for want of effort, but on account of the method of science, which indicates as causes of the phenomena other phenomena, and never goes back to the first real, primary Cause, to what Socrates calls Νονς (Nous), a term which may be translated by Spirit. He tells us how enthusiastically he entered on the study of the scientific work of Anaxagoras, after hearing the following sentence out of a book written by him: "It is the Spirit which ordains and causes all that is," and how deeply disappointed he was to find Anaxagoras, just like all other scientists, explaining phenomena by phenomena.

"I soon gave up that wonderful hope, my friend," he says, "for, while proceeding and reading on, I realized that he had no use for the Spirit and did not indicate real causes for the ordaining of things — but airs and aethers and waters and a quantity of other foolish things."

Today Socrates' complaint might be repeated word for word when one reads a book on Cosmology. Often a writer, treating of ultimate causes, seems disposed to find them in the Spirit, but in his deductions he ever fails to go beyond attractions, repulsions, frictions, and movements of the ultimate particles of matter.

Now this is a very unsatisfactory state of being, especially so where scientific cosmology — notwithstanding the brave and assiduous endeavorings of its brightest minds — has failed to obtain even a glimmering of real insight. Many are the cosmological theories, but not one of them imbodies more than some very hypothetical triads, which after a little time have to be abandoned as untenable.

For a student of Theosophy it is not difficult to indicate where Science has turned the wrong way, inevitably leading up to the present state of ambiguity where bewildering metaphysical problems which cannot be answered by the authors crop up in scientific treatises which pride themselves on being purely scientific.

Cosmology treats of the origin of worlds, be it the solar system, the galaxy or the great superstructure of the spiral nebulae. In each instance it goes back to a state of chaos of the primordial matter. So does Science and even so does the Old Wisdom. But there is a huge difference in outlook between the two, which can be substantiated by what might be called the slogan of each. While the Old Wisdom agrees fully with the above-mentioned passage of Anaxagoras, saying: "It is the Spirit which ordains and causes all that is" Science adheres to the proud dictum of Immanuel Kant: "Gebet mir Materie, ich will Euch eine Welt daraus bauen," (Provide me with matter and I will build you a world).

In the perennial strife between the Spiritual and the materialistic views, Western Science has thus far supported the latter, much to its own disadvantage; for what right of existence has cosmology if it cannot satisfy our longing for philosophical insight into the course of evolution viewed from the standpoint of eternity? Cosmology is the science of eternity, not of temporary being, and as such it has to begin from Spirit and from nothing else. Cosmology, so we may say, treats of Kosmic Ideation, which draws forth the Universe out of the bosom of the Eternal Mother. " 'The Mother sleeps, yet is ever breathing.' And every breath sends out into the plane of manifestation her Protean products, which, carried on by the wave of the efflux, are scattered by Fohat, and driven toward and beyond this or another planetary atmosphere," we read in The Secret Doctrine (I, 143) by H. P. Blavatsky.

To elucidate more clearly the difference between the reasonings of Science and the insight of the Old Wisdom, and possibly to give a hint as to how Science should alter its ways, the idea of primeval matter or chaos may be considered. Many would-be problems of scientific cosmology originate from the altered significance which rationalistic science attributes to the term "chaos." With the Ancients Chaos is not a state of matter, but "the Kosmic storehouse of all the latent or resting seeds of beings and things from former manvantaras," as Dr. G. de Purucker says in Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy (page 316). Kosmos cannot rise out of Chaos without interference of the Gods, of the Demiourgos of Plato.

The scientific cosmology of Kant and modern writers also starts from a state of chaos, but here chaos means a state of helter-skelter of matter, and there is no place left for the interference of the Gods. Kosmos has to rise out of chaos by blind forces inherent in the nebulous matter, which latter should not be thought of as something metaphysical, as pro-matter, if it is permitted to coin this word, but simply as being composed out of the smallest particles — electrons and protons, etc., — of ordinary matter.

Of course it is the good right of Science to start from these premisses, but then it should stick to them and it should not endeavor to trace back to the origin of things and mix metaphysics with physics, as often and often it is found doing. Belot, a modern French cosmologist, is entirely right when he claims that the idea of chaos as a starting-point is barren and full of inner contradictions in science. He is right, for chaos is essentially a metaphysical state of being, and modern science does not treat of metaphysical states but of plain physical facts. But he is only right as a scientist — as a present-day scientist, we may add — for it is to be hoped that before long the abyss now existing between philosophy and science — yea, and religion — will be bridged again as it was in the ancient times of which the Gupta-Vidya tells us. Then Science will once more discover the deep significance underlying the old Egyptian cosmology for instance, which now is treated contemptuously as merely a conglomeration of mythological stories, astronomical facts, astrological speculations, magical rites, and entangled superstitions. How wrong and presumptuous this attitude of Science is may well be illustrated by giving the merest outlines of this sublime cosmology, in fact by limiting ourselves to a short interpretation of the following exoteric teaching, which may be rendered in a nutshell thus: Tem has created Kosmos by Ra out of Nuw (Nw).

Who is Tem? The hieroglyph for the name Tern is a sledge, the oldest means of transport in Egypt. Ideographically "sledge" indicates motion and then metaphorically cause of motion, life. So Tem is cause of motion, spender of life. But the word Tem still has two more significations, to wit: all and without form.

Two hieroglyphs, which often stand as adjuncts to Tem may be translated by the words great and grand; grand by sublimity and great in number. They give two aspects of Tem: it is the sole, unmanifested Creator (formless cause of motion) of the manifested world and at the same time it is this world. Tem symbolises the ONE which becomes many and the many which ultimately is ONE — a fundamental representation which recurs in all ancient mythologies. Tem is the Hebrew God of Genesis, the Ain Soph of the Kabbalah.

The process of creation commences by Tem drawing forth Nuw. Nuw is the personification of chaos, of disordered and un-differentiated substance in its two aspects of pro-matter and force. This is clearly depicted in the hieroglyph of the name Nuw, which consists of the sign for water (phonetically: N) on top of a spiral (phonetically W). Here water stands for pro-matter, while the spiral is the emblem for the kosmic forces inherent in matter. But just as we have to think of pro-matter as being intangible, not-concrete and without form, so likewise we must think of those forces as not yet manifested: they sleep beneath the superficies of the waters. This arrangement of the symbols indicates a state of non-activity, in accordance with the significance of Nuw, which is: the (relatively) absolute potentiality.

We have decisive proof of this interpretation being by no means only a play with symbols without intrinsic value, for there is another hieroglyph, with the significance of: to exist actively, which is formed by the exactly identical symbols . . . but now the spiral showing above the sign for water: force is awakened to activity by rising out of the water. The symbol now indicates clearly the manifested forces.

Tem, the Spirit, creates Kosmos out of Nuw (chaos). But how is this creation achieved? Is it by the "blind" forces contained in Nuw, as the cosmogony of Kant puts it? Not so. Tem influences Nuw manifested as Tem-Ra.

Again it is wonderful to analyse the term Ra. It can be expressed by two hieroglyphs, one of which is composed of the emblem for mouth and by an extended arm. This signifies: action of the mouth, and therefore word, Logos. The other is the symbol for sun, a circumference with a point in the center. This symbol, a very mystical one, by the way, has the significance of: center of life, source of creative power. Here the sun stands for the visible symbol of the same power which is depicted in a more abstract form by the other hieroglyph.

The inner meaning of what at first sight only seems to be a rather quaint mythological tale, then comes to this: The highest, formless, unmanifested God or Consciousness — Tem — emanates out of its own being Nuw, or Substance, in its dual aspect of matter and force, and forms by means of Ra, or his Logos, the Kosmos, i. e., the whole of manifested things which come into being.

And so we have once more an instance as to how the Ancient cosmology teaches us the truth of the saying of Anaxagoras "that it is the Spirit which ordains and causes all that is," putting thereby Socrates in the right and materialistic science entirely in the wrong — in full accordance, moreover, with the teachings of the Old Wisdom as they are revealed to us by that masterpiece of insight-knowledge: The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky and by the elucidation of those teachings by Dr. G. de Purucker, especially in his two sublime books: Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy and The Esoteric Tradition.


1. Doctor of Physics and Astronomy, University lecturer in Astronomy at the University of Utrecht, Holland. (return to text)

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