A few years ago the French journal L'Ami du Peuple published reviews of two books on Evolution which are even more significant today than ever. In the first, Professor L. Vialleton, distinguished embryologist of Montpellier, discusses "Transformism" as opposed to "Evolution," in almost perfect consonance with the Theosophical point of view. The reviewer quotes Cyrano de Bergerac:
An hour after death the soul vanishes to
re-become what it was an hour before birth,
and asks "what was that? Did it exist in the infinitude, in "the States of the Sun and of the Moon" which Cyrano is said to have journeyed in?" Perhaps. Turning from that profound mystery to the more practical subject of the origin of species the reviewer speaks of the struggles between "the more or less damaged theories of theology and science," showing that there is an increasing approach between them, the former becoming freer and the latter less materialistic.
A significant remark of Prof. J. S. Haldane's comes to mind:
Materialism, once a scientific theory, is now the fatalistic creed of thousands, but materialism is nothing better than a superstition on the same level as belief in witches and devils.
Prof. Vialleton's book is a demonstration that transformism as the reason for the various species of living forms is a pure illusion, and his arguments are derived from the most recent researches in embryology. He shows that the "missing link" between the various species is everywhere lacking. Species do not fit into one another like the ingenious Chinese boxes, he says; or, as others have also said, "end-on" evolution is not found in nature. Prof. Vialleton claims that biology proves that the laws of heredity are carried on solely within the limits of specific types, and that structures belonging to each type are not reproduced outside its limits. This is perfectly in harmony with the outline of the evolution of types given in The Secret Doctrine where it is shown that the fundamental types of animals and plants — archetypes, they may be called — originated in a superior plane of Intelligent Causes. When these generalized planes were "precipitated," as it were, into physical activity, minor modifications of great variety appeared by so-called "natural" means and formed the species which are contained in the larger outlines.
Prof. Vialleton examines, in this connexion, the fossil remains of ancient man and concludes that the "human type is a highly particular and widespread form in the mammalian kingdom." His close analysis of the character of human and ape structures supports Dr. H. F. Osborn's declaration of their essential differences.
Transformism is commonly and wrongly thought by those who have a superficial knowledge of biology to be the same thing as Evolution. In English the words are used with little discrimination, but the French writers recognise the distinction. Theosophy takes Evolution as the continuous growth of an inner being or spirit through numerous experiences to a goal. Transformism is meaningless, and Dr. de Purucker in his Man in Evolution defines it as "the doctrine that things grow into other things unguided by either innate purpose or inner urge." Professor Vialleton's definition of the difference between the materialistic and the true point of view are well-considered. He says:
Transformism is a mechanistic doctrine which explains the appearance of living beings by the sole action of natural causes, working without any kind of direction, and without any end in view. The word Evolution implies a determined direction, an order or system that realizes higher results than those that could be expected from Transformism.
He points out that Transformism, in which are included the "survival of the fittest," the brutal "struggle for existence" and blind "natural selection" (a curious misnomer, as the word "selection" implies thought and will), has never explained the ascent of life, still less the higher faculties of man. He boldly declares:
The word Creation, which has been banished from the biological vocabulary, must be replaced, at least so far as to show that the world as presented to us is a co-ordinated Whole, and therefore the product of Will.
This is good Theosophy, so far as it goes. To complete it, only the idea of conscious guiding Hierarchies behind (or within) the "world as presented" is lacking.
The same reviewer in discussing another new work on biology concludes his remarks in a paragraph which is worth translating in its entirety:
But, when we have finished reading these scientific works, and return to our own thoughts, the same old question presents itself, the insoluble problem: — What, then, is man? What does it signify at bottom as to where he originates, and where he is going? He has built cities, invented railways and radio, yes, but for what? Still better, he has conceived an idea of the universe, has calculated the thousands of light-years that separate the constellations of Orion from Cassiopeia, but what does even that lead to? What place does he hold in Infinity? Science cannot answer, and human intelligence recoils appalled before the great mystery of the Beyond.
True; the intelligence of the ordinary man, however learned and brilliant, has not raised the Veil of Isis, but there exist a certain few, even on this earth, who have stepped out into a wider consciousness and who have penetrated deeply into the mystery of man's true place in nature. These Masters of Wisdom, at present limited in number, have reached by intensive training the knowledge and power that the majority of mankind will possess in far distant ages as the capacities of the divinity within are brought forth. From time to time they have given out as much of their wisdom as conditions permitted; and it is our privilege and our duty to study and present it to the world.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE