The Theosophical Forum – Spetember 1938

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH — C. J. Ryan

"Extra-Sensory Perception"

"E. S. P." Widespread interest has recently been aroused in telepathy and clairvoyance by the publication of Professor J. B. Rhine's researches at Duke University into those tabooed subjects. With a very few courageous exceptions scientists have always regarded them as beyond the pale of respectability and not to be mentioned in academic discussions under pain of ostracism. Dr. Rhine dubs those faculties "extra-sensory-perception," a name whose technical sound may have helped to attract more attention than the old-fashioned words for faculties perfectly well known from time immemorial. Anyway he has made a serious breach in the dense wall of arrogant denial, and it is so well defended that it can never be closed. The final surrender of the materialist garrison is visibly approaching, several of the superior officers such as Dr. Carrel, Professor Julian Huxley, Dr. Carl Jung, etc., having already accepted the inevitable.

Fortunately, Dr. Rhine has not tried to prove too much; his experiments are not sensational, though the implications are very far reaching as he suspects. He does not mention ghosts or the like, but he works on the line that an ounce of fact is worth a ton of opinion or rumor, even if the opinion may be reasonable and logical. Dr. Rhine set out to test the assumption of all the "regular" psychologists that nothing can enter the mind except through the sense-organs. By trying an immense number of experiments (corroborated by published reports from more than a dozen colleges in addition to his own from Duke University) in naming unseen cards under test conditions, he has apparently completely demonstrated that the psychologists were entirely wrong in their assumption, and that on the contrary, the mind actually has access to knowledge in ways unsuspected by them — telepathically and clairvoyantly. Under the most severe tests, when the subject was separated from the cards by walls or opaque screens and the cards were sealed in opaque envelopes — even when blind subjects were tried — the average of success in the 142,825 cases was 5.8 hits in 25 calls, when the mean chance expectation is 5.0. The odds against such an excess over the average are so great that, as Dr. Rhine says, it would take 196 digits to write out the figure! Eminent mathematicians have examined the figures and found no flaw. With a few specially gifted subjects remarkably accurate results were obtained, but the most significant feature of the research is the successful average when tens of thousands of experiments were made with a large number of subjects chosen at random.

Although Dr. Rhine has stepped only a very little way out of the conventional ruts of psychology, he has already felt, "the inexorable shadow which follows all human innovations," to use the words of the Mahatman K. H. (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 1) in regard to A. P. Sinnett's efforts to report H. P. Blavatsky's phenomena in 1881, and the unpreparedness of the public to accept them. Though more liberal views now prevail, largely owing to the work of Theosophists, Dr. Rhine's innovations have aroused ungenerous opposition, and he has been charged with commercialism and carelessness, if not worse, by various critics, some of whom, as he says "don't wish to believe." He has been able to rebut the accusations with ease and to show their unfairness. Yet, as in H. P. Blavatsky's case, though slanders may be completely demolished, prejudiced minds will continue to make them, and we fear — from the study of many similar cases — that Dr. Rhine will find his path in the Borderland of the Occult World a thornier one than he dreamed when he so gaily entered it, especially if, as he hints in his latest book, New Frontiers of the Mind, he may try to penetrate more deeply into the latent powers in man. If he succeeds, as we may hope, another step will have been taken toward Theosophy, for, as H. P. Blavatsky says:

The whole issue of the quarrel between the profane and the esoteric sciences depends upon the belief in, and demonstration of, the existence of an astral body within the physical, the former independent of the latter. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 149

The astral has far more to do with the psychic faculties than the physical has.

How Long Can Seeds Remain Dormant?

The claim that Egyptian wheat has been grown after lying in tombs for several thousand years is denied by botanists. Recently a report was received from Sweden that ancient Egyptian peas had been grown, but confirmation is still to be obtained; and it is said that when the stones of a ruined Roman temple in France were removed, flowers came up which are quite unknown in that region. There is a similar story in Japan. However all this may be, the Department of Agriculture reports an authentic discovery in Costa Rica in the same line though not so sensational. Tobacco seeds of a kind that has not been grown there for more than sixty years have remained dormant in the earth under certain old houses. When the houses were destroyed by earthquakes or otherwise the seeds were exposed to sun and rain and began to grow. There seems to be no doubt of this case and it is surprising enough, but it will not help much in establishing the possibility of wheat remaining alive for thousands of years. Could the Egyptians have had some secret method of preserving the vitality in the mummy-wheat?

Order and Analogy in the Solar System

Astronomers have looked more or less frigidly on the curious gradation in the distances of the planets from the sun called Bode's Law, and yet it is impossible to ignore it altogether. It will be found in every text-book. One reason that it is suspect is that the regular progressive increase in distances from the sun fails when it comes to Neptune and Pluto, the outermost planets. This is not, however, surprising to students of The Secret Doctrine, for H. P. Blavatsky says that Neptune does not properly belong to the Solar System in the sense that the congenital planets belong, and so it may well disobey Bode's Law of planetary distances without vitiating the accuracy of that law in respect to the planets nearer the sun. The planets Jupiter and Saturn with their large number of satellites may be regarded as Solar Systems in miniature, and they follow a somewhat similar law of distances. In the case of the Saturnian System, however, there has been an awkward gap in the series. Mr. J. Miller, of the British Astronomical Society, suggests that a faint satellite reported by Professor W. H. Pickering in 1905, but not since confirmed, is the missing one. The difficulty of seeing or even photographing the fainter satellites is great, and considerable research will be necessary to prove the existence of a tenth satellite of Saturn if, as seems most probable, it exists. A complete exposition of the numerous analogies in the structure of the universe around us would take more time and space than we can afford at present, but it makes a marvelous picture of order and organic unity, and gives a new meaning to the famous "harmony of the spheres" of Pythagoras.

Meteorites

Dr. W. D. Urry, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been analysing meteorites by the radium degradation principle and has found that while many are less than 100,000 years old, others are nearly three billion years old. This throws serious doubt upon the recent theory that meteorites are the remains of an exploded planet or small planets beyond the orbit of Mars. While some meteorites appear connected with comets, there are other possibilities. They may not belong to our system at all. Anyway, the problem is still unsolved. We believe that Dr. C. B. Lipman still holds to his belief that he has found simple bacterial forms of life in certain meteorites, but we still await any claim to the discovery of fossils in the stony meteorites.

Blood Relationship between American Indians and Arabs!

In the December, 1936, THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, we mentioned the four principal types of blood in the human race — O, A, B, and AB — and discussed the statement by Dr. P. B. Candela that American Indians, Basques, and Celts belong predominantly to group O. and that this discovery would open a vast field of research in regard to the history of mankind. Dr. W. M. Shanklin, of the American University of Beirut has now demonstrated that the purest-blooded Arabs in the Syrian desert, etc., have the same type of blood as America's pure-blood Indians. H. P. Blavatsky associated the North American Indians, the Basques, and the Guanches of the Canary Islands in one group, before the modern blood-groupings were discovered. (See The Secret Doctrine II, 740, 790.) South American Indians of the Amazon region and Patagonia belong to the Hindu type! Surely all this must have some important bearing upon the problem of Atlantis?

Mind and Brain

Can a man live and think rationally with a large part of his brain missing? It seems to be so, and, if so, may this not be an awkward fact for the materialists who declare that man is entirely dependent upon his brain, and that when it perishes he perishes too? Several instances have been given in these pages of almost incredible cases of intelligence persisting after enormous areas of the brain were destroyed or had degenerated, and some new cases have just been reported. Although, according to statements made in May, 1937, at the American Psychiatric Association, the seat of intellect in right-handed persons lies in the left side of the brain, and it cannot be injured without serious interference with intellectual processes, we are now told that this general belief must be modified. Dr. D. O. Hebb recently described four cases to the American Psychological Association in which careful psychological examination has been made after large parts of the brain had been surgically removed. No ill effects were found, and in one case the patient had improved in intelligence. Two of the patients were of unusually high intellectual ability before and after the operation. It was proved that the removal of a large part of the dominant (left frontal lobe) thinking area of a right-handed man meant no loss of mentality.

Some psychologists have declared that man's future progress in intelligence depends upon a great increase in volume of the brain, but others think there is plenty of unused material still available for enormous advances. After all, is not the rate of progress dependent upon something very different from the structure of the brain mechanism? It is worth noting that psychiatrists are beginning to suspect that the cortex or outer surface of the brain is not so much concerned with thinking as formerly believed. The discovery of the rhythmical electric waves which beat through the gray matter of the cortex is proving a valuable addition to methods of research, and Dr. J. W. Papez, Cornell University professor of anatomy, suggests that the source of the waves is in the central portion of the brain, near the pituitary and pineal glands. Observations of the results of injuries to this area indicate it to be closely connected with the emotions and consciousness. If scientists could break through the conventions, and impartially study the evidence for the existence of an astral or semi-material body and brain their researches would be greatly benefited. Perhaps they would discover that the brain is only the vehicle of consciousness and that still more subtil ones can function on this and other planes!


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