The Theosophical Forum – December 1939


Science and the Life-Atoms

No one who follows the trend of modern thought can fail to recognise that the fundamental principles of Theosophy are rapidly affecting the mental atmosphere around us, precisely as H. P. Blavatsky said would happen in the twentieth century. She worked for the future. We see this process in the scientific, religious, and educational worlds, though credit is too rarely given to the fount and origin, or the Messenger whose self-sacrifice opened the way. An interesting illustration of this occurs in The Hibbert Journal for July in an article by Sir Richard Tute entitled "Indications that the Universe is Alive," in which purely Theosophical conclusions are reached by "orthodox" scientific means. The author shows no indication of having studied technical Theosophical teachings, but makes use of the modern theories of Time and Space and the new atomic physics to present his intuitive reasonings. From this vantage ground he points out "a direction in which modern science has supplied a metaphysic of the universe which admits of belief in both religion and morality"!

The basis of this "metaphysic" is that everything in the universe, including the electron, "has to be treated as if it were a vital entity — as if it were alive." From this living "vibrant," as he calls it, he leads us to the combinations we call atoms, units which also act with some evidence of having living intelligence of a sort. Then come molecules and crystals of increasing complexity.

The carbon compounds, when associated in "organic" forms, move a step farther, and show greater evidences of life in their capacity of nutrition and reproduction. The protoplasmic cells, themselves complicated life-units with a certain range of choice and will, enter into higher combinations as tissues and organs, which themselves are controlled by the higher organisms of which they are components. In all these stages we have what Sir Richard boldly calls "an ascending series of personalities which interlock with each other and which present an ascending scale of complexity."

This of course is the Theosophical principle of hierarchies set forth in scientific form, though few scientists would use the word "personalities." But the author is well able to defend his claim that the activities of "organic" and even so-called "inorganic" units of all classes are only possible if they are living entities with some measure of intelligence, purpose, and foreknowledge.

Space will not permit a recapitulation of his reasoning, but it is based on the philosophy of Monads advanced by the great Leibniz, adapted to the findings of modern science. Leibniz's view is, to quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

In his famous work, the Monadology, he [Leibniz] elaborated the theory that reality consists of an infinite number of individual forces or agents, psychic in nature, which he termed "monads." These individual minds or spirits exhibit every degree of mental development and complexity, from that of beings even higher than man (the angels) right down to that of psychic entities of so low an order that Leibniz described their being as a mens momentanea, or a mere flash of conscious awareness. In the hierarchy of mind a complete continuity from one level of development to another was postulated. Leibniz conceived each monad as reflecting within itself the rest of the universe from its own particular standpoint.

Students are aware of the importance H. P. Blavatsky attached to the Leibniz monadic theory. On page 623 of The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, she compares it with the Ancient Wisdom, quoting from the Sanskrit. The Divine Mind "Hidden in a veil of thin darkness, formed mirrors of the atoms of the world, and cast reflection from its own face on every atom. . . ." In succeeding pages she shows high appreciation of Leibniz, and in the second volume, on pages 672 and 673, she returns to the subject. In Dr. de Purucker's Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy he carries this important subject still farther.

Sir Richard Tute carries his argument into the spaces of space, to the distant suns, and criticizes the popular idea that life and personality must be confined to a few planets like ours — if there are any — and that the universe is mostly a great waste of unconscious matter. He believes that the "vibrants" may show increasing complexity as they do on earth, and yet be capable of existing under conditions which would be instantly fatal to men.

Like the cells, they may have no organs that we can recognise as such. Like the cells, the universe will be to them wholly different from what it appears to us. They may be exceeding active and intelligent entities, but busied about matters of which we can form no picture and can have no comprehension.

This is excellent Theosophy.

In a most penetrating analysis of Time-Space, in which he makes a difficult subject unusually clear, he explains how a proper appreciation of it shows that an absolute beginning or end of any system, such as the Monads, is impossible; and he remarks that:

A personality which suddenly found itself free from all associations with the body and its functions would experience a continuum in which it would be conscious if itself and of its value in the great scheme of things. It would not be conscious of any passage of time. There would be no beginning to which it could look back, and no ending to which it could look forward.

This idea is plainly stated by the Master K. H. in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett.

Sir Richard concludes by pointing out that the philosophy of Monads with all that it implies, especially that which is now called the Space-Time continuum or in other words the world of Reality, was well known in ancient Greece to Plato and Parmenides and others, and to the Hindus in the doctrine of maya. He speaks of these "penetrating glimpses into reality" as intuitions or revelations, and rejoices that:

The wonderful thing about the present age of knowledge is that science is establishing the necessity for recognising that the ancient intuitions, of which we have been speaking, are also scientific statements.

But it was more than mere "intuitions" that made Buddha say, with the authority of one who knew, that "To the eye of flesh, plants and trees appear to be gross matter, but to the eye of a Buddha they are composed of minute spiritual particles."

The Hibbert Journal is taken in all good libraries, and we strongly recommend defenders of Theosophy against current mechanistic views to read Sir Richard Tute's informative article which contains many valuable ideas in addition to the few we have mentioned.

The Problem of the Ether of Space

We are frequently asked what is the position of scientists in regard to the Ether, which according to The Secret Doctrine, has a very real existence and a most important place in nature.

It is fundamental in Theosophy that the Ether is a very subtil (to us) substance, the grossest form of Akasa, the fifth Cosmic Principle. Ether is the Astral Light. Akasa is not matter in any form which we can conceive, as can be supposed from H. P. Blavatsky's statement that it corresponds with the Manas or mind principle in man, and that Manas actually proceeds from it.

When the famous Chemist, Sir Richard Crookes, was in communication with the Mahatma K. H. in 1883, the latter advised A. P. Sinnett that if Crookes wanted to discover the "Manasic" state of matter, a far higher condition than his "radiant matter," "he would have to pledge himself stronger to secrecy than he seems inclined to," i. e., to enter the Mystery Schools.

Present day science is still uncertain as to the existence of an Ether. While some authorities assert its existence, others repudiate it, and prefer to speak of "Space" and its properties. It seems to be largely a question of definition and terms. Sir Arthur Eddington points out that it cannot be of the nature of a gas, however attenuated. This is important and leaves plenty of room for the Theosophical claim that it is on a more subtil plane than the physical. Sir Oliver Lodge is a supporter of the ether, for which he considers he has sufficient evidence, presumably meaning mediumistic phenomena, which, of course, are largely concerned with the Astral Light.

The famous "Michelson-Morley experiment," in 1887, gave no evidence of the luminiferous ether and is still held as authoritative. But other experimenters, especially the distinguished Dr. Dayton C. Miller of the Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, believe that it was not final and that recent experiments indicate that the earth is actually drifting through an ether which can affect the instruments employed. In the August Scientific American the subject of Dr. Miller's laborious experiments is considered and the writer says that "To this day these results have never been explained away," and that "Thus far, anyway, science does not know whether there is an ether or not," though "Preponderance of evidence seems against it at present." In regard to Dr. Miller's attitude on the subject we read: "He says calmly that the details of his work are now in the record, and that the future will prove them true or prove them wrong. In this he resembles Professor Einstein who, when told of Professor Miller's findings, calmly said that if they were finally verified the theory of relativity would automatically disappear. This is science."

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