The Theosophical Forum – January 1939

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH — C. J. Ryan

Auroras, Sunspots, and Cycles of Unrest

The dispute that so frequently crops up about the association of curious sound-effects with displays of the polar Auroras in high latitudes ought surely to be settled at last by the report in favor of a connexion between the sounds and the streamers published in Nature, (London) May 28, 1938, by the Norwegian Professor Carl Stormer, the world's leading authority on auroras. This occurs in his article on the great aurora of January 25-6, 1938. It was apparently the most magnificent display of the Northern Lights seen since the great one that occurred on September 29, 1870, during the Franco-German war when widespread uneasiness prevailed in Europe. The 1938 aurora was seen over nearly the whole of Europe and northern Africa, causing great alarm, and in America it was recorded as far south as Florida. It was even visible at Point Loma in Southern California, a most unusual event.

The 1870 aurora took place during the great sunspot maximum of that period, a maximum which has not been equaled since, until today, when we are passing through a similar one. The connexion between auroras and great solar activity is fully established, and certain scientists have suggested that the outpouring of greater solar radiation during sunspot maxima may be responsible for financial depressions and serious unrest in human affairs. This would be accentuated during periods like the present and that of 1870-1, when the number of the spots and their size, and the brilliancy of the auroras are greatly increased. Some years ago, Professor Tchijevsky, the well-known Russian student of sunspots, brought evidence before the American Meteorological Association that most of the sunspot cycles harmonized very closely with cycles of social agitation; and Dr. Harlan T. Stetson writes:

Actual measurements have shown that in general the ultra-violet light from the sun is much more potent during years when sunspots are most numerous . . . It is this stimulating effect of ultra-violet radiation which . . . when too strong, results in agitation . . . we would be led to believe that the affairs of mankind are much more intimately related to our cosmic surroundings than science has thus far been led to suppose.

On Tuesday, September 27, 1938, in the week of the great European crisis, an unusually brilliant aurora was studied by Professors H. Landsberg and H. Neuberg at Pennsylvania State College. Speaking of the biological effects of such auroras, the former said that in spite of the skepticism of many scientists "investigators have found that about one day after electric showers, such as Northern Lights, reach the earth the death rate from heart disease suddenly jumps and the number of suicides shows an increase."

Returning to the auroral sounds, which have been so often denied or explained away by critics who said they were scientifically impossible, Professor Stormer brings convincing evidence that during the magnificent display of the aurora as seen last January in Norway, curious sounds accompanied it, rising and falling in accordance with the changes in brilliancy of the great colored streamers. Two careful observers, some distance apart, recorded exactly the same effects.

The lower part of the aurora was about 60 miles from the earth's surface, but it reached to a height of 375 miles. At those great altitudes the air is so extremely rare that, as Professor Stormer points out, it seems impossible for the sounds to have come from that region; they must have been aroused in lower and denser parts of the atmosphere in some unknown manner.

There are still many mysteries in connexion with sound. However this may be, the special point of interest to Theosophical students is that strange sounds are frequently, if not always, associated with polar auroras. The Secret Doctrine offers information on the subject, presented, however, in terminology not altogether familiar to western scientists, who little know what a wealth of hidden knowledge lies behind its oriental philosophico-scientific teachings. On page 204-5, vol. I, we read, in part:

"The Songs of Fohat and his Sons were radiant as the noon-tide Sun and the Moon combined;" . . . "The agitation of the Fohatic Forces at the two cold ends (North and South Poles) of the Earth which resulted in a multicolored radiance at night, have in them several of the properties of Akasa (Ether) color and sound as well." . . . "Sound is the characteristic of Akasa (Ether): it generates air, the property of which is Touch; which (by friction) becomes productive of Color and Light" . . (Vishnu Parana)

Perhaps the above will be regarded as archaic nonsense, but it will be better comprehended, if the reader remembers the Aurora Borealis and Australis, both of which take place at the very centers of terrestrial electric and magnetic forces. The two poles are said to be the store-houses, the receptacles and liberators, at the same time, of Cosmic and terrestrial Vitality (Electricity); from the surplus of which the Earth, had it not been for these two natural "safety-valves," would have been rent to pieces long ago.

H. P. Blavatsky then speaks of the polar lights being accompanied by and productive of strong sounds. In occult science Sound takes a far more significant place in the economy of nature than modern physics has yet suspected, though recent discoveries in sound have opened some new and surprising possibilities. On page 621, volume I, of The Secret Doctrine we read that when Professor W. Crookes's discovery of "radiant matter" (the first adumbration of the electronic nature of matter) shall have been further elucidated "present speculations" will be revolutionized, and that this will be closely associated with research into the nature of the aurora! This remarkable statement was made in 1888, but it is only lately that science has tried to build theories about the nature of the aurora based upon modern atomic physics, and has spoken of auroras being probably produced by streams of electrons or ions bombarding the earth from the sun and being attracted toward the poles!

Science and the Defence of H. P. Blavatsky

In the foregoing paragraphs reference is made to her knowledge of certain facts denied, doubted, or ignored by the learned in her day. She stood alone at first and offered scientific teachings about man and nature which had to fight their way through almost unsurmountable difficulties. Her statements were unwelcome to scientists, who in general agreed with the distinguished man who is reported by Professor William James, the psychologist, as saying: "All the fundamental conceptions of truth have been found by science, and the future has only the details of the picture to fill in"! Most of those "fundamentals" have been abandoned or greatly modified since 1895. The new schools of science, particularly the physicists, have caught up, as it were, with many of the fundamentals of the Ancient Wisdom brought to the West by H. P. Blavatsky and now speak of them as ascertained facts.

In this Department we propose to emphasize these teachings more strongly than hitherto, not only because of their interest but because students of Theosophy whose duty it is to meet malicious and ignorant charges against the Founder of the Theosophical Movement in the nineteenth century and her position as the Messenger of the Masters of Wisdom should become well acquainted with them. A bold attack is said to be the best method of defence, and the straightforward presentation of her scientific statements and their modern corroborations has the advantage of avoiding any personal recriminations which tend to arouse opposition or refusal to listen. Once reasonable people recognise that behind the sometimes uncouth personality of the "Sphinx of the nineteenth century," as she was called, was hidden a profoundly wise and well-informed individual, as can be proved by the records of her teachings, the ridiculous "charges" of charlatanry fall to the ground by their own weight.


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