The Theosophical Forum – January 1939


When you ask a scientific worker who never seriously studied Theosophy, what influence Theosophy had or still has upon the development and the ideas of modern science, he will tell you that science and Theosophy are incommensurable quantities which have nothing in common. And as a confirmation he will challenge you to find in scientific work even the slightest allusion to Theosophical statements or any reference at all to the Founder of the Theosophical Movement, H. P. Blavatsky.

When his attention is called to the fact that in the Theosophical literature many teachings are found treating of biological, anthropological, physical, chemical, and astronomical topics, showing a different outlook from the current scientific explanations, he will declare without flinching that these teachings are to be rejected if contrary to the conclusions of science. As a scientist — so he will say — he cannot and will not meddle with hazy, metaphysical, or mystical speculations. And so indeed it is. Exact science in general — not mentioning a small group of advanced workers — is very conservative. And in addition it is essentially anti-metaphysical. Since the seventeenth century its orientation has become more and more rationalistic and materialistic. It is not so long ago that it did not acknowledge a higher instance than the logical function of the brain and regarded it as its task to reduce the whole universe — life and consciousness included — to a fantastic dance of the atoms performed to the rhythm of the laws of chance. Hence it is obvious, that science — in advance and without further questioning — condemns to be unscientific everything and all that smacks of metaphysics or mysticism.

Meanwhile it is true and joyful that the last decennia indicatea change for the better in this exclusiveness. Facts, especially in the fields of biology and psychology, but also in those of physics, force the students of those particular sciences to search for other ways of explanation. Parapsychological phenomena, experiments in embryology, general biological problems, all lead to the postulation of causes that are no longer materialistically and perhaps even no longer logically explainable. Technical terms like "entelechy," "Ganzheit," "totality," speculations about "the pattern of causes" like those of Prof. Jordan (Holland), the enormous and almost morbid interest which parapsychology can boast of — all these demonstrate the change in the scientific way of thinking. It simply comes to this: that many an earnest thinker tries to escape out of the grip of the merely positivistic and materialistic interpretations, endeavoring to penetrate to a more fundamental insight than can be given by a purely logical analysis of facts.

It is of importance to mention in this connexion that today there are some logicians who consider the possibility of the simultaneous existence of different logics excluding one another. This, if anything, is an indication of the setting free of human thought from one-sided rationalism, which too long has tyrannized the Western world.

However, these are but skirmishes of the pioneers. The main force of scientists becomes distrustful whenever the term "metaphysics" crops up. As yet they do not wish to abandon the rationalistic way of thinking.

But how about the pioneers? They should find a kindred spirit in the Theosophical views, one might say.

No. They, too, reject all relation with Theosophy, although some of them proclaim purely Theosophical ideas.

Now this remarkable attitude of mind can be partly explained by the difference existing between the scientific way of thinking and the manner in which Theosophy offers its truths. Notwithstanding the brave struggle they make against the supremacy of the logic of mental thinking, it certainly is not an easy task for scientific workers — trained as they are in their manner of thinking — to escape from this mental tyranny. It is difficult for them without a rational basis to accept what is given out as indisputable certainties of an Old Wisdom; the more so as it is claimed that these certainties — some of which only a short time ago after strained effort have been discovered by science — were known already during endless centuries. Wounded in its self-love, science asks unbelievingly and distrustfully: "Why on earth have these acquisitions never been published?" — and points out "how very vaguely most of these so-called discoveries are worded when compared to the mathematical phrasing in which scientific discoveries are announced."

But it forgets one important thing. There is a fundamental difference in outlook between science and the Mystery Schools of all ages. While science grants access to all its discoveries to everybody who cares to look into them — without the slightest guarantee that they shall not misuse them — the Mystery Schools, on the other hand, prohibit the acquisition of knowledge to those who are unworthy of it and accept their pupils only after a long time of serious probation, during which their moral and ethical qualities are tried — before initiating them into a knowledge which should be held sacred.

Theosophy teaches that the knowledge and control of the forces of Nature by investigators who thereby pursue selfish aims, must of necessity lead to the most formidable disasters and calamities for humanity; and common sense doubtlessly would agree with this judgment immediately, were it not led astray by its passions and desires. Consider for a moment our present-day world. What use did humanity make of the most excellent and inspiring discoveries of science? We see dreadnoughts, tanks, all sorts of gunnery, gas-masks, high-explosives, U-boats, aircraft armed with poison-bombs. Such is the bitter fruitage which man reaped from the tree of knowledge, after acquiring admittance to it through a misplaced faith of science in the good-will of its students.

Theosophy adds that there exists a still deeper knowledge relating to psychical and astral planes, which, were it likewise to become common property, would lead to black magic, compared to which the present misuse of the technical power over matter would fade away as the sigh of a child amidst a clamorous and riotous mob.

Here lie great dangers. In some particular instances science has approached to the discovery of keys granting entrance to psychical phenomena — which up to this day had been left almost unexplored. Some utterly unscrupulous individuals already put themselves at the disposal of crime committed by means of psychical powers — and are paid for it. It is high time for mankind to make a halt. If the intellectual flower of humanity does not in time awaken to the responsibilities which are inseparable from the possession of knowledge; if science continues publishing unreservedly its methods and its results, the Western world will perish by its untimely acquired and therefore malefically employed power. And not for the first time in history either. Theosophy tells us of the civilization of Atlantis, which — being incomparably more advanced than ours — yet was wiped out by the same causes.

It most emphatically has been the task of the Founder of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky, to wake up our Western world — which in 1880 was fast asleep, dreaming its dream of rigid materialism — and to prepare it for the coming wave of psychism which threatens to conquer the present world. To this effect she was permitted to give out to the world some fragments of the Old Wisdom, which from time immemorial was shielded and guarded safely by the greatest of the human race, the Elder Brothers or Mahatmans. It was their aim to wake up and stimulate a spiritual current which on the one hand would vanquish materialism and on the other hand avert the threatening psychic invasion with its unavoidable dangers.

Just consider the almost insurmountable difficulties before which H. P. Blavatsky was placed. She had to combat the scientific opinions and notions of her time. She was compelled to point out the inadequacy of the materialistic outlook. It was her task to convince the world at large of the truth of the words of Hamlet:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

In order to achieve this, she had to wrestle with the insufficiency of the scientific explanations; she had to point out how very vulnerable even the most accredited theories of science were. Moreover, in order to convince an unbelieving, distrustful public of the reality of the psychical and astral world, she had to produce those "occult phenomena" which created so much sensation and in the end brought to her the infamous accusation of fraud. Add to all this her battle with the dogmatism of the Church — then we get a faint glimpse of the trials she had to endure; of the avid slander which tried to blot her name out of the annals of science and philosophy.

Man, although a God in his inmost being, often and again is overmastered by the personal emotions of his lower self. Instead of being great in the greatness of his essential nature, he tries to seem great by blowing up his smallness until it surrounds him like an armor of personal ambitions, personal views, personal theories. Woe to him who crushes this armor. There is no appreciation for him; he will not even find justice. Wherever possible he is slandered and made the laughing-stock of those pygmy-brains who cannot recognise and understand real intellectual and spiritual grandeur. He may have prophesied the most wonderful future discoveries and scientific results — when his predictions have come true his name will not be mentioned. He is not to be talked about. And when his ideas have fertilized the soil for future discoveries, others will claim the credit without any protest being heard.

This was the case of H. P. Blavatsky. And this is the actual reason why her name is not to be found in scientific treatises, even if they affirm the truth of many of her statements. And these are the motives — often unknown to scientists themselves — that make even the pioneers shrink back from mentioning the name of H. P. Blavatsky and from supporting the Theosophical ideas.

Little by little, however, the atmosphere of suspicion clinging to the name of H. P. Blavatsky is clearing up. Voices make themselves heard emphasizing that a great number of the modern ideas of science are laid down in her books, especially in The Secret Doctrine.

It is our intention to discuss in a series of short articles in THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM some of the problems of modern science in so far as they are of interest to the Theosophical reader. By drawing a comparison between the trend of modern thinking with the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, we shall be able to establish the fact that science is steadily growing distinctly metaphysical and mystical and is approaching daily to those teachings of the Old Wisdom of which she still denies the existence.

But apart from this general trend, we shall also see a gulf between Modern Science and Old Wisdom, which can only be bridged when Science comes to a deeper understanding of her own profoundly important discovery: that force and matter — or on a higher plane, Spirit and Matter — are two complementary aspects of the One Substance, each material process being accompanied and amplified by a spiritual process.

The true meaning of the laws of Nature cannot be properly understood as long as a one-sided attention is given to naught but the material side of things. Only after curing itself from this cramped attention will Modern Science once more fully endorse the conclusions of the Old Wisdom.

The Theosophical Forum