Copyright © 1977 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
The facts about man and cosmos enunciated by the ancient wisdom will stand, because they are derived from a matured vision not alone of the realm of physical matter and its transformations, but of the totality of being in all its multiple aspects and planes. Today scientists limit themselves largely to a method of inductive investigation, applied almost wholly to the phenomena of the physical universe. In the life sciences, research is concerned principally with our physical earth, considered as a single plane or sphere of life. The theosophist has an advantage in that he employs deductive thought to proceed from time-tested universals down to particulars and then, by reasoning from the known to the unknown, applies inductive analysis to test the axioms of theosophy by going from particulars back to universals.
The expectation is, however, that the findings of physical science, as these accrue over time, will corroborate and even verify elements of the more universal statements of theosophy, particularly those that concern earth-plane phenomena. And such has been the case, in abundance, since the late 1920s when Dr. G. de Purucker first presented the lectures that were later edited for this book. We now have a New Science — a New Physics, a New Biology, a New Astronomy, etc. — and there are fewer basic quarrels between theosophy and this new science. Unhappily, most scientists and many theosophists are not aware that this is so. The material in this Appendix is intended to help both become more cognizant of some of the more significant convergences between the two perspectives. Both kinds of thinkers are, if open-minded, fellow searchers after truth; and truth must ultimately be one, not two.
Little need be added to Dr. de Purucker's analysis showing modern science's dematerialization of the physical universe as a result of its own findings. Several developments in nuclear physics since the 1920s and '30s have more than confirmed the essential statements of theosophy regarding "matter." So illusive has the matter of science become that physicists now state that an electron is neither a particle nor a wave, "but an entity that defies every attempt at pictorial description." (1) The electron, or any other so-called material particle, can be studied solely by giving up the quest for a unified description of all of its properties and confining attention to a restricted range of experience. Only then can its behavior be understood as either a corpuscle or a wave, depending on how the boundaries of the field of interest are defined.
It is no longer legitimate to ascribe to such elementary particles the substantiality of pellets of matter: they are nonmaterial structures, and in a very true sense the new physics has become metaphysics because it deals with factors beyond visibility and seemingly beyond natural law, factors that can be coped with experimentally only by a statistical law. This is the famous "Principle of Indeterminacy," so named in 1927 by its formulator, the great German theoretical physicist, Werner Heisenberg. Individual atoms and electrons in their motions and actions are found to exhibit an element of unpredictability — a kind of free will or choice-making — so that even though they may be of the same kind or class, all do not do the same things. As a result, in atomic and subatomic phenomena strict causality, as this has been understood in classical physics, cannot really be applied. Predictability and determinism break down. (2)
So malleable and uncertain has the material aspect of the universe become in the vision of modern physicists that as recently as 1971 a book was published, titled The Search for a Theory of Matter (3), which honestly acknowledges the inability of the new physics to devise a theory able to explain the phenomena it studies. We are indeed witnessing a revolution in science's view of the physical universe, one that has not yet reached its full course nor come anywhere near its destination. But the course has begun, and contemporary findings continue to shatter classical notions about the universe. Astrophysicists, for example, now realize that an evolution of the elements occurs within suns, beginning with the transformation or transmutation of hydrogen into helium, the next heavier element of matter; but they don't fully understand how this happens. In all the stars, processes are going on which build up the atoms one by one into more and more complex elements or material structures. Thus, as Jacob Bronowski put it: "Matter itself evolves. The word comes from Darwin and biology, but it is the word that changed physics in my lifetime." (4) That is a remarkable statement, reflecting as it does a dawning recognition by physical scientists of a definite evolutionary course in material substance. On the physical plane this very much resembles the more recondite process of emanation of substances and forces from inner or more ethereal and spiritual planes downward and outward to other, more material planes, as explained herein by Dr. de Purucker. The words of Bronowski epitomize perfectly how differently the new science views the universe, which in the 19th century was seen as simply a vast material machine in which every product was predetermined.
A good example is our sun, until recently regarded by science as a steady, well-ordered machine about which there remained little to be learned except the nature of the nuclear reactions believed to be going on in its heart. Now astrophysicists have been forced to rethink long-held theories about how the sun works, especially the notion that it is burning at exceedingly high temperatures. In 1974 Dr. Henry Hill of the University of Arizona, Tucson, trying to determine precisely the diameter of the sun, discovered that it is vibrating. Its limb or edge oscillates back and forth about every sixty minutes over a distance of about twenty kilometers. It is in fact breathing in and out in a natural vibration at various frequencies, a phenomenon that has been compared to the ringing of a bell.
Studies of the oscillating sun carried out at Birmingham University, England, suggest that the sun may be much less dense at its center than had been thought, and have only half the temperature assumed by current models: 7 instead of 15 million degrees. Many scientists do not believe such a low-temperature sun to be possible. Even the certainty of the eleven-year sunspot cycle has been upset. Carrying forward researches of the 19th century astronomers Gustav Sporer and E. W. Maunder, Dr. John Eddy of the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, finds that between 1650 and 1715 A.D. the sunspot cycle had disappeared. (5) Because our sun is a star, these findings have major implications for the study of any and all stars in the physical universe. Many other examples might be given, and we shall have more to say later on about contemporary scientific thought as philosophy.
Turning now to the idea of evolution itself, we find this is regarded by most people as a process restricted to animate life forms and generally equated with Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. But "Darwinism" strictly speaking should more properly be used to mean Darwin's theory of the factors of evolution. There were many evolutionists before Darwin, some of whom also propounded theories about the constituents at work in the evolutionary process. Just which factors really apply in animate evolution is, however, a still-moot question for modern science. It happened that Darwin and his fellow worker, Alfred Russel Wallace, thought out a coherent theory about certain factors which at the time appeared to fit the known facts so well that their hypothesis won the conviction of a large body of naturalists. The essence of Darwin's theory is in the two words variation and selection, and not all the agents he believed produced those results are accepted as such today. As Dr. de Purucker points out, nobody denies that a process of evolution takes place on earth; the debate has to do with the causes and the mechanisms. Very soon after their joint presentation of the theory, Wallace found he could not agree with some of Darwin's determinants. He published several studies of his own which emphasized that Darwin's ideas were especially inapplicable in the case of man — and that other factors, particularly man's unique brain, became operative. In brief, Wallace contended that natural selection could have acted on man's body in any marked degree only before man acquired the intellectual capacities — the self-conscious awareness — which make him truly man. After that, this self-awareness became the principal and overriding determinant in his evolution, making him unique among all of earth's animate life forms. We shall discuss some of Wallace's arguments in more detail later.
With regard to variation, Darwin's teaching that acquired characters can be inherited had been disproved by biologists' studies and tests long before the 1950s. The findings of the new biology, well attested by all the available evidence, is that while a gene can make a protein, and a mutant gene a modified protein, the character of a protein cannot be communicated back to the genes. Genetics at a molecular level is a one-way street. Effects of the environment which alter the outward character of the animate life form cannot alter that organism's genes in any coherent way, as proposed by Darwin. Nevertheless, biologists recognize that a reciprocal influence between life forms and their environments takes place, but they admit their ignorance of the causes or exactly how the interaction works.
For want of any better theory most biologists still rely largely on Darwin's factor of natural selection as a broad description of the process of evolutionary change, some also continuing to maintain that it explains changes that arise in animate life forms. But in the late 1960s one school of evolutionary theory, led by certain Japanese molecular biologists, challenged the idea that natural selection offers any explanation at all of evolutionary change, because experimental results failed to show that a process of such selection could have any preference for this or that version of a molecule. Since then, many molecular biologists have in fact begun to take it for granted that natural selection does not always apply. (6)
Mutations, which produce visible changes in life forms, arise in genes. Certain environmental factors appear to be responsible for certain mutations, but only for a very few, so far as biologists know. Moreover, not all mutations are found to conform to Mendel's laws, and there appears to be no explanation for what causes such mutants to arise in the DNA material. The situation at the current frontiers of the study of genetics and evolution is, then, that there are a number of theories in need of supporting facts! Having pursued to the atomic and molecular level the quest for the source and mechanisms of animation or "life," biologists find themselves reduced to chemical descriptions. They are back to a "random factor" — evolution governed by "chance," mutations which arise "spontaneously" — and most will acknowledge that these words when applied to the phenomena they study signify no more than that their actual causes remain unknown.
What this means in simple terms is that many if not all of the settled notions about the key factors affecting animate evolution, derived from Darwinism, are again at issue as a result of the new biology's observations and experiments. Thus a series of imposed theoretical conceptions that long dominated all consideration of those things which make man what he is, have been cleared away. This could result in some measure of serious attention being given to those inner and spiritual factors behind the evolutionary phenomena — especially of human beings — pointed to in this book. We note in particular Dr. de Purucker's references to the powerful, indeed dominant, influence from within the entity of the "dhyan-chohanic fluids" (cf. ch. 16, "The Weismann Theory"), with their practically unlimited individual potentials. Such potentials are, he says, checked in physical manifestation by karmically originated electro- and psychomagnetic conditions of the environment or field of action.
This leads up to the theosophical teaching that man is the originant of the simian stocks, rather than the reverse; that man's origin was not monogenetic but took place through a modified polygenesis; and, that man as a thinking being is far older than modern anthropology has thus far allowed him to be. Since Dr. de Purucker's book was issued, archaeology and anthropology have brought to light a wealth of new information on prehistoric man and anthropoid. Much of it upholds the theosophical material he discussed and helps to restore man to man — no beast, but a higher being poised between the animals and the gods, unlike any other on the face of the earth.
Modern anthropology, however, takes no account of man's spiritual ancestry nor of his ethereal beginnings on this globe in this round as the originant of all mammalian stocks, as discussed by Dr. de Purucker. Not all anthropologists are even in agreement as to which fossil forms of primates fall definitely within the family of the Hominidae. This Appendix uses the term Hominidae, or hominid, its Anglicized variant, for all of the forms man's biological ancestors have assumed here on earth — i.e., for the family of forms, both living and fossil, which are strictly human (7) — as opposed to the Pongidae, the primate family composed of the tailless anthropoid apes which resemble man anatomically: gibbon, gorilla, orangutan, and chimpanzee, and their ancestors. Such a usage has the advantage that it accords with the theosophical perspective of the primacy of the human line both biologically and spiritually with respect to the mammals.
Several years ago the respected contemporary Finnish anthropologist, Bjorn Kurten, affirmed that the evidence of primate fossils themselves (in contrast with any theory) points unmistakably to the fact that man never descended from apes, but that it would be more correct to say that apes and monkeys descended from early ancestors of man (cf. his book, Not from the Apes, Pantheon Books, Random House, New York, 1972). Like Dr. de Purucker, this scientist maintains that in all the traits under comparative examination, man is the primitive while apes and monkeys are the specialized form. Space does not permit anything like a full recapitulation of Dr. Kurten's extensive, detailed anatomical comparisons in support of this thesis. Years of study have shown him that in all cases where sufficient fossil material is available to enable inspection of key skeletal features, there is no mistaking a hominid or early human form for a simian form. Dr. Kurten observes that as far back as the earliest Australopithecines, which have been dated at some 4 to 6 millions of years before the present (8), the anatomical evidence confirms an upright posture for man. This is not the case for the simians, whether fossil or living, no ape being a biped in the sense that man is. He considers it most unlikely that any human ancestor ever walked on all fours in ape-fashion, or knuckle-walked as do African chimpanzees and gorillas. The fossil record of the many specializations which all living apes exhibit (compared with man's unspecialized structure) shows these to have arisen independently. Dr. Kurten recounts that a fossil upper jaw of a primate, unearthed in the Nagri formations of the Siwalik Hills of northern India in the early 1930s and regarded as that of an ancient ape, had been named Ramapithecus by G. E. Lewis. Noting some remarkably manlike traits in it, Lewis boldly classified Ramapithecus as a hominid. Shortly after, W. K. Gregory and M. Hellman, noted authorities on primate dentitions, corroborated Lewis's conclusions and the three published their findings. In spite of this, hardly anyone took notice and the fossil was virtually ignored until the late 1960s. Then Elwyn L. Simons, a leading paleontologist at Yale University, and David R. Pilbeam, a former student of Simons, carried out a careful analysis of it and of other similar fossils resting forgotten in museum cases in several parts of the world. Their study provided convincing evidence that Ramapithecus was not simian as the name implies, but hominid.
Meanwhile Louis B. Leakey, working in the Fort Ternan area of Kenya, East Africa, had found a fossil upper jaw of another type of Ramapithecus. The Nagri formations where the many Indian specimens were found are dated in a range of 8 to possibly 14 million years B.P. (9) Those at Fort Ternan are given a good 14 million years, making the African Ramapithecus the older. Other finds of this fossil hominid have since turned up also in Europe and China, but those of Africa remain the oldest so far discovered.
In Dr. Kurten's view the significance of Ramapithecus is that man had long been regarded as a descendant of Dryopithecus — that is, of a simian form possibly 6 or 7 million years old. (10) Ramapithecus then showed a true hominid form to have been in existence for at least as long as Dryopithecus! But the decisive contribution of Ramapithecus is the proof it affords that hominids show no convergence towards the simians as we go back from the most recent (around 7 million years) to the oldest (14 million years). Even those earliest forms of Dryopithecus have the specialized dentition — notably the peculiar premolars — characteristic of apes, whereas the hominid forms have a primitive premolar; and science knows of no case in which a comparable specialization has been lost, once attained, by a reversal to the primitive condition.
This Finnish scientist extends his argument even further. More recent finds by Simons in 1966 of fossil primate remains in the Fayum badlands southwest of Cairo, Egypt, have been dated in a range of 25-30 million years B.P. Yet these remains exhibit the same distinct skeletal differences between simian and hominid forms (11) as do those dated millions of years closer to the present, described above. All the simian fossils at Fayum are of very small creatures, the biggest, Aegyptopithecus, being no larger than the present-day gibbon. A clear lack of convergence between hominid and simian forms has thus been carried back as far as some 20 or more million years.
Dr. Kurten sums up his cogent analysis of the meaning of this fossil record by concluding that "the most logical answer suggested by the fossil evidence is this: hominids are not descended from apes, but apes may be descended from hominids" (op. cit., p. 42). His conclusion, based not on any mere theory but on expert examination of "hard" evidence, closely parallels, as far as it goes, the theosophical view. Theosophy, or the ancient wisdom, avers that thinking, physical man as a distinct type has been in existence on earth for almost 19 million years. It is important, however, that such statements be properly understood when applying them to the anthropological record we are here considering. Theosophy does not say that all hominids gained self-consciousness at precisely the same period in far-past time. The process of lighting the fires of mind in man, which began between 18-19 million years ago among the karmically ready stocks, undoubtedly went on for millions of years thereafter for the less-ready, and cannot really be said to have utterly ceased until the 'door' into the human kingdom was 'closed' by nature at the midpoint of the fourth root-race, said to have been reached around 8 or 9 million years ago. Thus, a really enormous latitude is allowed for individual variation in development of the human mind and its physical focus — the brain — within the whole of the Hominidae, or family of man: that is to say, among its different genera.
Another fossil primate discussed by Dr. Kurten, that of a creature named Oreopithecus, has been dated at about 12-13 million years old — contemporary with forms of Dryoithecus, Pliopithecus (an ancestral gibbon) and Ramapithecus. All known Oreopithecus fossil remains come from coal strata in Italy, and fossil fragments of it have been known since 1871. A lucky find in 1958 of a complete skeleton of this four-foot-tall creature, at Bacinello in Tuscany, showed it to have a number of curiously manlike traits in its teeth, jaws, skull and hipbone. Oreopithecus currently fascinates many anthropologists because it is perhaps the one kind of ancient primate — one of the oldest known, in fact — whose convergence with man appears to them to go further than any other. Another fossil discovery in 1957 consisting of very large jaws and isolated teeth, found only in Kwangsi Province in southern China, is that of Gigantopithecus. Although regarded as a pongid, this form also displays several manlike traits including reduced canine teeth.
What significance has all this for our discussion? First, the farther back we go, the fossil record shows no evidence of any tendency for hominid forms to display apelike characters, while, on the other hand, some exceedingly ancient fossil ape-forms are found turning up with certain hominid-like anatomical characters. How can this be explained? It is certainly susceptible of an explanation under the theosophical view of the origin and evolution of the simians: (a) that the monkeys arose from fruitful unions between a "mindless" or unself-conscious hominid stock and a high beast stock — which we can tentatively date at some 20-26 million years before the present; and (b) that the anthropoids resulted some 8 or 9 million years ago from fruitful unions of a degenerate human stock with descendants of the earlier miscegenations, quasi-beast stocks of types that have since died out. (Cf. The Secret Doctrine, II, 184, 191-2, 689; see also ch. 12 in the present volume.) In far past geological times both these simian stocks, says Dr. de Purucker, resembled their respective human half-parents in much fuller measure than do their present-day descendants, the living monkeys and apes. The earlier stocks were much nearer in time to the dominant human influence taking its rise within their heredity. The living simians show the effects of specialization away from that influence over the intervening millions of years. This may be seen in the embryos as well as in the infant members of present-day simian stocks — especially the ape stocks. Both the embryo and the infant are much more "human" in appearance than are the adults.
Moreover, contemporary anthropology does not consider the possibility that some of the earlier hominid-like fossil forms — such as perhaps Oreopithecus and some even of the Australopithecines or other so-called near-men — may well be examples of early miscegenations which brought into existence these stocks of beings intermediate between higher animals and man. These hybrids would be outside of the true human line and, as said, have become extinct. Only their more degenerated or animal-like descendants, the apes and monkeys, continue to survive in several parts of the world and to intrigue scientists because of their faint and blurred biological resemblances to true hominids.
We see, then, that there is important scientific data which tends to substantiate man's great age as a form superior to that even of higher animals contemporaneous with him in time. What is of almost greater interest for our discussion is that some anthropologists are interpreting recent findings in a manner to suggest a polygenetic or polyphyletic human ancestry rather than the monogenesis of earlier theory. This new perspective, based upon study of actual fossil materials, deals so far with a period of some few millions of years only. Nevertheless it is suggestive of the far broader theosophical statement that man's first root-race — many, many millions of years B.P. — exhibited a modified polygenesis.
According to the teachings of the theosophical tradition, seven distinct human stocks — what could be called genera of Hominidae — took their contemporaneous rise in different localities on the earth. In their earlier expressions these groups closely resembled each other, certainly until the unfolding of self-consciousness began to take widespread effect among them during the latter part of the third root-race. Because of the differing rates and manners in which that new awareness made its impress upon the individual units, differentiation of form among the various hominid stocks became relatively accelerated. The maximum expression of such diversity among human genera was approached toward the close of the first half of the fourth root-race, about 8 or 9 million years ago. Then, this differentiation of form reached its acme, and radically distinctive types of human beings were to be found coexisting on the earth. (12)
Since that time, as the trend of nature downward into matter has begun to reverse itself on the upward arc, the human stocks have slowly tended to assume the same kind of form. Only four among the primitive seven stocks still remain, we are told, and as a result of intermingling even these now differ so little except in some superficial particulars that it is possible everywhere to distinguish immediately a human being — be it even abnormal in development — from any other animate life form on earth. Does the scientific picture tend to negate or to corroborate that offered in modern theosophy? To answer this question we must review the explosive changes that have taken place in anthropology since 40 and even 30 years ago.
In the 1940s the evolutionary line of man's direct ancestors — i.e., of the genus Homo — was generally thought by scientists to be not more than 500,000 years old at the very most. It was held to begin with the so-called Java and Peking man, now termed Homo erectus. In 1959, largely but certainly not exclusively as a result of discoveries made in East Africa by Louis and Mary Leakey, estimates for this ancestry were moved back dramatically to about 1.6 million years B.P. Then, in 1972 their son Richard Leakey found a fossil hominid skull and thighbones remarkably like those of modern man, in deposits dated at about 2.6 million years before the present. Anthropological notions of the age of our immediate ancestors were extended almost another million years. In October 1975 Mary Leakey announced discovery in Laetolil, Tanzania, at a site not far from those of earlier finds, of jaws and teeth of a type of the genus Homo in deposits that have been assigned a firm date of some 3.75 million years B.P. A year previously, in 1974, in Ethiopia's desolate Afar Triangle area to the north of the region worked by the Leakeys, Dr. Donald C. Johanson of Case Western Reserve University unearthed a near-complete female hominid skeleton provisionally dated at about 3.5 million years old. Other anthropologists working in East Africa have also found fossil remains of early hominid types that have been assigned comparable ages.
In their recent epochal fieldwork in Africa, Richard Leakey and Dr. Johanson have shared their findings and ideas all along the line. One result of their work has considerable importance for the ethical perspective de Purucker's book conveys as part and parcel of its scientific information: the absolute need of practical brotherhood among all men if we are to accomplish our evolutionary journey. Speaking at Pasadena City College in the spring of 1975, Richard Leakey presented film clips of life and work among the present native inhabitants along the shores of Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf) in East Africa. The films demonstrated how those people have learned to share among the whole community, without individual rivalry, what the surroundings offer for their survival.
Leakey then emphasized that his study of prehistoric men has shown him that they too must have lived together cooperatively, in a manner completely at variance with that of the "aggressive savage," as our forebears are so often stereotyped nowadays in some popularized anthropological books. The "stones and bones" of men more than a million years old, he said, have convinced him that within their own ecosystem early men must have displayed as much intelligence and as full a sense of human solidarity and compassion as do some modern men within their ecosystems which, though more highly structured and complex in material gadgetry, are not so different in terms of essential needs and interests. In other words, the need for brotherhood as a central force was just as vital for successful human evolution millions of years ago as it is today; and further, that we — modern Homo sapiens — owe our existence not to our ancestors' "naked ape" aggressiveness but rather to their ability to cooperate.
Just a year later, in the spring of 1976, Dr. Johanson and his team announced discovery in the Afar Valley of about 150 bones from a group of two children and three to five adults, all of whom were found together and are thought to have been killed in a flash flood or similar catastrophe. This is the first time that a group of fossilized individuals closely related genetically has been found, and Dr. Johanson believes they can tell us much about the growth and development of their species. Johanson has classified that group as Homo or man, although not as advanced as Homo erectus, and assigned them a date of at least 3 million and probably 3.5 million years B.P. In a joint press conference sponsored by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., Johanson and Richard Leakey discussed their newest finds and both emphasized that the evidence of the fossil record is that "man is innately cooperative," for prehistoric men hunted in groups and did other things together and "returned to a home base." Leakey said:
One begins to see a picture of a social unit unlike that seen in any other animal. It's not just the old bones we're interested in. It's important to know if our earliest ancestors were decent, cooperative creatures instead of killer apes. I'm sure man was a predator. But to kill, to be like us, to kill out of being nasty — there's no evidence of that at all in the fossil record. — As reported in The Washington Post, March 9, and The National Observer, March 20, 1976
The general view among anthropologists has been that human social groups were a comparatively recent development, dating back little more than 60,000 years to the time of Neanderthal man! (13)
Contemporary paleoanthropological discovery has made it clearer that several types of hominids as well as "near-men" — such as Australopithecus — pursuing parallel but different lines of evolution must have shared the earth contemporaneously. Numbers of respected anthropologists, among them Alan Houghton Brodrick (14), hold this view although it is by no means universally accepted. Johannes Hurzeler, director of the Basel Natural History Museum in Switzerland who received the 1958 Oreopithecus find at Bacinello, believes this creature to have been on a line of parallel evolution to that from which modern man descends, but that it was a "blind-alley" form which died out. At the joint press conference just mentioned, Leakey produced evidence for a 1.5 million year old Homo erectus in Africa, and said that the Peking and Java examples previously assigned an age of about 500,000 years are probably much older. He sees two other species as having coexisted with Homo erectus on the earth more than a million years ago, although these subsequently have disappeared as types. The perspective of parallel development, accompanied by the extinction of various early stocks, does much to explain why anthropologists cannot connect all existing fossils of manlike creatures into one straight line of succession leading to modern man.
With regard to the Hominidae — the much broader category of the family of man as a whole, and not solely Homo sapiens or our direct and immediate ancestors — there has unfolded the equally impressive extension into past time discussed above. As recently as the late 1940s anthropologists — still searching for a common link between pongid and hominid — were of the general opinion that these began separate courses of evolution from some common ancestor, mostly thought to be Dryopithecus, about 6 or 7 million years ago. Furthermore, reclassification in the late 1960s of Ramapithecus and its coordination with related fossil evidence in other parts of the world, showed that varieties of true hominids — of types naturally less evolved than those of our own genus Homo — existed as long ago as 15 and possibly as much as 20 or more million years B.P.
The 3 or 4 million years currently allowed our genus Homo shows man to have been man, and nothing less than man, pretty much as we know him anatomically and in terms of brain development, for a hitherto unsuspected antiquity. That period of time is, incidentally, just about the span of duration that modern theosophy assigns for the present or fifth root-race type of man since its earliest or seeding appearance as a variant or sport within and toward the middle of its parent fourth root-race. But as a race or stock exhibiting its own specific character completely distinct from that of its parent race, our fifth-race humanity is accorded an age of about one million years only. The emerging fossil record, nevertheless, appears to show that a range of hominid as well as near-hominid types overlapped with this early Homo, which itself displayed a number of differences within its own genus.
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, it must be pointed out that theosophy does not say that all of these fossil types of hominids formed part of the stream of human evolution that has led directly to Homo sapiens sapiens or the contemporary type of man. Which of them did is, of course, highly controversial. As one reviewer recently put it, "whoever makes assertions about human ancestry enters a minefield," because of the comparatively rapid accumulation of new fossil and associated evidence, as well as the changing ideas of scientists about how human biological evolution has proceeded from prehistory into the present.
The striking transformation in anthropology is still going on. It has far from convinced all anthropologists that hominids are not derived from some true pongid progenitor; however, it has shown that any such hypothetical divergence could have occurred only in an exceedingly remote past — an estimated 20 million or more years ago, to use a round figure. We would be making a mistake to infer from the argumentation in this Appendix that all anthropologists think alike about the wealth of fossil evidence that has been and is being amassed or even about the dates assigned it. Scientists do not hold identical theories regarding the meaning of hominid and simian fossil features, nor even agree always as to which may be hominid and which simian. Nevertheless a picture is emerging that is a great deal clearer than that which confronted the anthropologist of fifty or sixty years ago. Incomplete as it may still be — and it is imperfect — overall it is found to support the anthropogenesis outlined in volume II of H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. (15)
In brief, the distinction between anthropology and the ancient wisdom is mainly one of approach. The former seeks to develop a viable evolutionary theory on the basis of the physical changes that are known to have taken place in bodily forms; the latter regards man primarily as a monad of conscious energy which evolves a succession of material vehicles for the purpose of expressing ever more fully its inherent potential.
In recent years increased scientific attention has been paid to a phenomenon in man that is truly remarkable if he is to be regarded as just a higher animal and nothing else. In terms of geological time and the terribly slow pace of evolutionary change and development required by Darwinian theory, the record of fossil Hominidae reveals a spectacularly sudden increase in the size of the human braincase relative to any other mammalian life form. Cranial expansion is centered largely upon the cerebrum or anterior portion of the brain which in all higher mammals overlies the rest of the brain. The human cerebrum consists of right and left hemispheres and connecting structures and is held to be the seat of the conscious mental processes, in contrast with the cerebellum or the lobes of the brain situated behind and beneath the cerebrum. The cerebellum is the seat of involuntary control of the body's physical movements, translating the cerebrum's general instructions into precise commands. The larger the cerebrum, generally speaking, the greater the area of cortex or surface layer of convoluted pinky-grey matter. The number of these cortical convolutions is held by science to be a kind of index in man of comparative "brain-power" or thinking capacity. The beasts show no cerebral or cortical development comparable to man in terms of the so-called "associational" or "interpretive" cortex of the frontal and parietal lobes. (16) This is the brain area assumed to be responsible for thought and self-consciousness.
The human brain remains an enigma for scientific investigators. It actually is, in the conception of neuroscience, three and perhaps four brains. The brainstem, known as the "old" brain or "reptilian" brain, is at the top of the spinal cord. Above and in front of it is the limbic brain or "old mammalian" brain. The limbic brain consists of the amygdala, pituitary and pineal glands, hippocampus, thalamus and hypothalamus: a cluster of small, vitally important structures that scientists believe were left over from an earlier phase of mammalian evolution. These structures still regulate, monitor or censor much of the body's autonomic nervous system and emotions. They also affect what is going on in the cerebrum, the "cognitive" or third brain. This third or "new mammalian" brain envelops the others and dominates the brain's appearance. The cerebellum, the fourth major structure, lying under the "bump" at the back of the head, is usually considered as outside of the three-part brain.
Here, too, we find some links with the theosophical conception of the human brain as a whole and also in regard to the functions of the pineal and pituitary bodies (see chapter 15 of this book for further reference). As Dr. de Purucker tells us, the two structures of the limbic brain known as the pituitary and pineal glands receded from view during our early racial evolution in proportion as conscious mentation or reasoning — a function of manas or "mind" — became dominant as a human activity toward the end of the third root-race. But in distant future eras those glands — the bodily seat of man's spiritual intuition and cosmic vision of truth — will reemerge into conscious use and may well bring about some further physical transformation in the shape and size of the human braincase or skull.
Let us return to the puzzle of man's present braincase size. A well-known anthropologist, Dr. Loren Eiseley, has quoted the blunt statement of two scientists, M. R. A. Chance and A. P. Mead, that "no adequate explanation has been put forward to account for so large a cerebrum as that found in man" (Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology, VII, "Evolution," Academic Press, New York, 1953; p. 395). This means, we infer, no biological or no Darwinian explanation. Dr. Eiseley then states that while all other mammalian life forms exhibit particular physical specializations, man has a curious specialization of his own of a more abstract and generalized type: his brain. Man's brain is more than twice as large as that of a much bigger related creature (the gorilla), and trebles in size during the first year of life outside the womb, unlike anything else we know in the world of animate life forms. Inasmuch as the human brain is the acknowledged seat and focus of man's consciousness, and it is man's consciousness which makes him what he is compared with the beasts, Dr. Eiseley has here recorded the scientific complement of the time-honored axiom that man is not his body but the thinker within.
An imaginative scientist, Dr. Eiseley ponders the explosive suddenness with which man "escaped out of the eternal present of the animal world into a knowledge of past and future," and concludes that "the story of Eden is a greater allegory than man has ever guessed."
There is every reason to believe that whatever the nature of the forces involved in the production of the human brain, a long slow competition of human group with human group or race with race would not have resulted in such similar mental potentialities among all peoples everywhere. Something — some other factor — has escaped our scientific attention. — The Immense Journey, Random House, New York, 1946; p. 91
The theosophist recognizes that just such a process, which is termed the "descent of the manasaputras," is indeed the "factor" which sets man apart and above his companion species on earth. Through creative spiritual acts, evolutionally older beings senior in standing to our humankind, endowed the Hominidae with a portion of their own self-consciousness. In other words, the allegory of the exit of Adam and Eve from a "Garden of Eden" depicts man's transformation from unself-consciousness into self-awareness. From this ensued our realization of time and space, of past and future, as well as nature's demand that we engage in self-reflective cognition as decision makers who have assumed full responsibility for our thoughts and acts.
As scientific analysis Dr. Eiseley's declaration implies the recognition that at some still undefined former time (for science) there took place a primordial linkage of bright intelligence with bone, muscle and nerve tissue in a manner that had never occurred before, and that dramatically and forever after revolutionized the development of our kind. He does not dogmatize, but leaves his readers to draw their own inferences from his presentation. Nevertheless, it is fair to conclude that Eiseley believes such an event or such a process is that "other factor" which has escaped attention. (17)
At this point several remarks are worth making about the findings of modern neuroscience concerning the human brain. Many brain investigators continue to believe that when matter is organized with sufficient complexity — as it is in the brain — it begins to manifest the qualities we associate with the mind. This of course is the orthodox stand of the reductionists among scientists: those who attempt to explain all biological processes by the same explanations (as by physical laws) that chemists and physicists use to interpret so-called inanimate matter.
Brain research remained slow until just the past several decades, however, and of the five or six men regarded as foremost in this field several think differently from their reductionist colleagues; all of them in one way or another are described as having come to a religious or mystical feeling about the nature of human consciousness as a result of their own scientific work. In particular one of these leaders, Sir Charles Sherrington, after a long and brilliant career studying the human brain, could say no more than that "we have to regard the relation of mind to brain as not merely unsolved, but still devoid of a basis for its very beginning" ("Wraparound," Harper's, vol. 251, December 1975; p. 6). Sherrington concluded that man's being consists of "two fundamental elements" — brain and mind — and that brain action does not explain the mind. In 1975 his outstanding pupil, Dr. Wilder Penfield, after an equally long and successful career in brain research, came out emphatically with the same view, saying:
Because it seems to me certain that it will always be quite impossible to explain the mind on the basis of neuronal action within the brain, and because it seems to me that the mind develops and matures independently throughout an individual's life as though it were a continuing element, and because a computer (which the brain is) must be programmed and operated by an agency capable of independent understanding, I am forced to choose the proposition that our being is to be explained on the basis of two fundamental elements. This, to my mind, offers the greatest likelihood of leading us to the final understanding toward which so many stalwart scientists strive. — The Mystery of the Mind, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1975; p. 80.
So again we see a situation resulting from intensive recent research in one branch of the new science that has brought rigorously scientific, honest researchers — some of the foremost in the field — to recognize that the forces at work in man's mind are distinct from the biological operation of his brain. An even closer approach to the theosophical perspective in this connection is found in these words of Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neuropsychologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and the author of several books about human consciousness:
The entire organism is a functional unity: thus we are not conscious with our cortex alone; we are conscious with the whole of ourselves. . . . It cannot be supposed that the origination of consciousness lies in us alone. Our consciousness is like a flame or a fountain, rising up from infinite depths. We transmit and transfigure, but are not the first cause. We are vessels or funnels for what lies beyond us. Ultimately we mirror the nature which made us. Nature achieves self-consciousness through us. — "Wraparound," December 1975; p. 5
For his part, Dr. Eiseley has done the cause of truth a real service by resuscitating some of the findings and conclusions of Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin's great contemporary. It was Wallace, for example, who generously named their jointly-discovered theory "Darwinism." It was also Wallace who in 1913 protested that the Piltdown skull did not prove much, if anything, about human evolution. This famous cranium and jaw, forty years later shown to be a hoax, had seemed to many Darwinists to substantiate their notions of a "missing link" between pongid and hominid that would prove man's descent from a simian progenitor. But Wallace did not believe what the Piltdown skull seemed to reveal about the nature of the process by which the human brain had evolved.
Darwin had seen in the rise of man with his unique brain only the undirected play of such natural forces as he believed had produced the rest of the living world of plants and animals. Wallace, however, early abandoned this view and asserted instead a theory of a divinely directed control of the human evolutionary process. Darwinists in their desperate search for the required missing links between man and ape were depicting living aboriginal peoples as fulfilling that role! Wallace, on the basis of many years' experience among such tribes in tropical archipelagoes, refuted the Darwinists' contention that they were mentally inferior. He asserted that, to the contrary, the aborigines' mental powers were far in excess of what they needed to engage in the simple food-gathering activities by which they survived. Employing the Darwinists' own arguments as applied to man, he asked: "How, then, was an organ developed so far beyond the needs of its possessor? Natural selection could only have endowed the savage with a brain a little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one but little inferior to that of the average member of our learned societies." (18)
Today it is a commonplace of scientific knowledge that no race or people enjoys superior mental potential over others. In essence, Wallace argued that proof of rapid brain development would imply a divinely directed force at work in man. Once man's mental powers awoke, his success or failure in the evolutionary process would depend on mental and moral qualities rather than on physical factors, and he would continue with very little physical modification except insofar as the development of intellectual capacity was reflected in the shape and size of the cranium. Those stocks which did not keep up that mental and moral progress would, said Wallace, become extinct and give place to stocks that did. All this is clearly theosophical. The Darwinians won the stage, however, and Wallace's views, despite their logic and clarity, were virtually ignored by later evolutionists. Wallace had also contended, and from the same logical basis, that the closer this research came to the starting point of the human family the more varied would be the bodily structure of hominids, in conformance with the diverse effects mind or self-consciousness would produce in different units — a theory that later anthropological discovery has done much to uphold.
Certain advances in science correlative to findings about the human brain need mention here. It is a fact that most contemporary anthropologists recognize that purely biological explanations of human behavioral adaptation are inadequate. While man, like all other animate life forms, must adjust to environment, attempts to link human behavioral systems to simple geographic or even genetic factors have always failed. Today scientists group those major factors which they find exhibited in human adaptation under one word: culture — that is, an integrated pattern which includes thought, speech, action and artifacts, and depends upon man's capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. Man is not born with culture, but with a capacity to acquire culture. He does not, they affirm, merely react to environment: he consciously changes, transforms and modifies it. While in animals behavior is predominantly instinctual, in man it is almost entirely a product of culture, imparted by teaching and learning, and does not reflect a fixed set of drives as is the case with the beasts.
Writing in 1962, the leading geneticist of human evolution, Theodosius Dobzhansky, clearly endorsed this view by saying that from very early times "man has been adapting his environments to his genes more often than his genes to his environments" (Mankind Evolving, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1962; p. 319). In man, biological evolution is clearly subordinate to cultural evolution; the chief determinants of human behavior are neither anatomical nor genetical as they are in the beasts. Therefore human behavior is a function and result of the inner consciousness that works largely through the brain — that is, man's cerebrum.
Now, if we turn to modern theosophy we see that the origin of this distinctive human culture is found in the tremendous "manasaputric event" already referred to, which rapidly brought latent human consciousness forth into activity. The awakened early human stocks of the latter part of the third root-race are described as building the first cities of lava and stone, cultivating the first crop plants, constructing the first implements and artifacts, etc. In this view, then, culture is a reflection on this earth-plane of the working of the distinctively human consciousness or monad to the degree that that consciousness has learned to manifest its creative powers. Manifestations of human creative faculties display imperfection and error, as we all know — man often harming his environment as much as or more than he helpfully modifies it, and then nature reacts upon him. Although physical science and theosophy approach this topic from different angles or standpoints, there is nevertheless a clear convergence of thought about it, regardless of methods of analysis. This convergence has been aptly epitomized in the title of the contemporary book, Man Makes Himself. (19) That study is only one example of what is in fact a growing literature devoted to the uniqueness of human culture that may fairly be said to have begun with the writings of Wallace. It is far too extensive for treatment here.
Remarkable advances in genetics and cell study made by the new biology have done much to substantiate Dr. de Purucker's statements that (a) what science calls the cell is an infinitesimal focus of cosmic forces through which these forces pour into physical manifestation; and (b) that there are uncounted and actually almost innumerable possibilities of development, locked up or latent potentialities, in a cell. These are all seeking expression, he said, and many have to bide their time for ages before the opportunity comes, if it ever does: that is, until the appropriate karmic environment or "field" furnishes them with the open door to manifest. Of course, being a physical science, the new biology has no formal conception of the invisible divine-spiritual monad directing and urging the actions of those inner and metaphysical forces, and its evidence has to do with the chemistry of genetics at the molecular level only. But its testimony is nevertheless valid for our argument, because these findings at the physical level harmonize with and indeed reflect the implications of the broader theosophical statements. The latter encompass findings or data from several levels of being in addition to the physical. (20)
Since the 1940s biologists have conducted intensive investigations of vital chemistry through what is known as molecular biology. This new field employs electron microscopes capable of seeing the complex molecules from which animate life is produced. Other equally remarkable techniques, such as X-ray crystallography, also help push research nearer to the very borders where physical life merges with astral life forces; biologists would not, as yet, employ such a term as this last, which has to do with a plane beyond their purview. To understand the findings of the new biology we must consider what it says about vegetable, beast and human cells — that is, cells of animate life forms, distinct from the life structures of the mineral and elemental kingdoms, the latter being a theosophical term for the classes of natural forces on earth which bind together the structures of all the planet's life forms (cf. ch. 18, p. 220, "Lost Pages of Evolutionary History").
Every cell in animate life forms has the power of self-replication for the life term of the individual unit containing it. But sex cells are, in the words of Dobzhansky:
potentially immortal; indeed, every sex cell is able, under favorable conditions, to give rise to a new individual with another crop of sex cells. The soma is mortal; it is the body which houses the sex cells, and which is cast off in every generation owing to death. Weismann's concepts of germplasm and soma were an important landmark in the process of understanding heredity and evolution. — Evolution, Genetics, and Man, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1955; p. 74
Isaac Asimov, a scientist writing more recently, after biological analysis had successfully isolated the essential chemical ingredients of the germ plasm, tells us:
In theory, it is even possible that . . . there are polynucleotide strands that have persisted through countless generations, perhaps even from the very first appearance of life. . . . the possibility of a super-patriarch among the now-existing strands, straddling the eons since the earth was young, evokes a rather breathtaking picture of the unity and continuity of life. — The Genetic Code, Orion Press, New York, 1962; pp. 141-2
It is within the chromosomal material (Weismann's germ plasm) in the nucleus of the sex cell that is found what the new biology terms the "genetic code": the information which, transmitted to every cell newly appearing in the growing life form, instructs it how to replicate. (The human body at full growth has an estimated fifty trillion or more cells, derived from one original cell.) The cell nucleus is composed of molecules of proteins and nucleic acids. These are chemical substances which are universally present in all animate life as nucleoproteins — large and highly-complex, energy-laden molecules. Protein molecules in the cell's nucleus are made of some 20 amino acids. The DNA and the RNA are the two types of nucleic acids which can be distinguished, each being built of only six chemical components; it is these nucleic acids which carry and transfer the genetic information. The DNA, but not the RNA, is the characteristic nucleic acid of the chromosomes and their component genes in the cell nucleus, and is the replicating material in cells. All cellular life, from the more complicated viruses (the simplest form of animate life known) up to and including man, is based upon DNA replication. (The RNA performs a messenger and transfer role in carrying DNA-originated information to all components of the cell.) DNA has been found to consist of two strands of what are called polynucleotides, which form a double helix that is held together by "crossbars" formed of four chemical bases joined together by weak hydrogen bonds. Biologists estimate that an individual gene may consist of a nucleic-acid molecule made up of a chain of between 200 and some 2,000 nucleotides. A human being may have as many as 150,000 genes altogether.
Intensive experimentation into the molecular and atomic complexities of DNA and its related materials is proceeding apace, and all the returns are not yet in, of course. Nevertheless a broad conception of the genetic mechanism governing cell formation and reproduction has already been arrived at, from which emerge several facts of paramount interest for us.
First, the number of kinds of proteins — that is, the essential building blocks of animate physical life — that can be built up out of the 20-odd amino acids acting on instructions from the DNA, is for all practical purposes unlimited. The question, then, is not where the body finds the variety of proteins it requires, but what controls the possible variety and keeps it within bounds. For, although the kinds of proteins required to form the vast array of specialized cells in a human body are very great indeed, they are nonetheless limited. Secondly and conversely, starting with only 250 genes (remember the estimate of 150,000 for a single human being), there may be produced as many particular kinds of sex cells having distinct combinations of genes as there are electrons and protons in the universe, according to current scientific estimates! Only a negligibly small fraction of all the potentially possible gene combinations in any one species is ever realized. In man a single ejaculation contains about 200 million spermatozoa. It is unlikely that any two spermatozoa, or any two ova in woman, will contain the same combination of genes. In all probability, except for cases of identical twins (which arise through division of a single fertilized ovum), no two persons alive carry the same genes. Every human being is, therefore, a carrier of a unique, unprecedented and probably unrepeatable gene complex! (21) The number of distinct individuals that can be composed by gene combinations in sexual reproduction is also, then, to all intents and purposes unlimited.
One scientific writer, Calder in The Life Game (p. 135), has summarized the lessons of contemporary molecular biology in this way: (1) the uniqueness of every individual; (2) the immense possibilities genetically latent in every group of individuals; and (3) the fallacy of any notion of genetic perfection. Thus, even at the level of the vital chemistry of animate life forms we see the findings of science affirming the principles of the ancient teaching, brought forward again in this book by Dr. de Purucker, that each entity is in essence a monad: a completely individual unit or life-consciousness-center, eternal as an essence. Every infinitesimal particle or point in the universe — an incomputable multitude — enshrines such a spiritual monad; and each such monad pursues or follows its own path or evolutionary course within broader categories or houses of life that are moving along their respective courses.
Molecular biology has also turned up some quite interesting facts about human, ape, and monkey blood-serum chemistry. Tests of their respective DNAs and three important blood constituents — hemoglobin, transferrin and albumen — have shown the structural differences of these to be small between man and pongids but much larger between man and monkeys. Within the pongids (including the gibbons) differences between man and gorillas and chimpanzees were quite small, but larger between man and orangutans and gibbons. A related kind of test, called the immunological, has yielded comparable results. (22) These measurements are valuable because they show a taxonomic order among the primates: man is seen to be related in a decreasing degree to the chimpanzee, gorilla, orang, gibbon, Old World and then New World monkeys, and finally the various prosimians, in terms of blood chemistry.
The test results have been employed by some molecular biologists to project estimates as to how long ago man's evolutionary line separated from those of the monkeys on the one hand, and the apes on the other, based on a theory that at the time such divergences began all three life forms had about the same type of hemoglobin. Sarich and others have devised a fairly comprehensive phylogenetic tree of living primates giving estimated times of divergence. This compilation has gorillas and chimpanzees — the African pongids (23) — splitting off from man about 5 million years ago, though the researchers suggest that it happened "not more than" 10 and "not less than" 5 million years B.P. Certain kinds of baboons are assigned a date of origin at about 7 million years; gibbons and orangutans 12 million; some Old World monkeys from 12 to 21 million years; and New World monkeys from 20 to 35 million years B.P. (Prosimians are estimated to have diverged as long ago as 75 million years.) The scientists who constructed this phylogenetic tree emphasized that their concern is not so much with precise periods of years as with general evolutionary relations, and they are undertaking similar tests and projections with other mammalian stocks.
However, the student of theosophy does not necessarily subscribe to all the inferences that various biologists are making from these new data, nor does he accept all the details of their theories about them. There are probably a number of significant inaccuracies attending their use as a dating technique, and this is recognized also by the scientists themselves. What is seen in the data — even when allowances are made for such inaccuracies and account is taken of the very general nature of theosophical dating of simian divergences — is the most interesting and suggestive "fit" that appears. The newer biological projections uphold the older theosophical statements. The general relation of the simian stocks to man is set out by Dr. de Purucker in chapter 7 of this book: monkeys have a "single dose" and the apes a "double dose" of human blood in their veins, but no human being has any simian blood in his or her veins. (The author employed, of course, a figure to make his point and did not engage in a precise chemical analysis of blood; that has now been supplied by science, at least in part.) Theosophy places the point when the monkey line arose from the human line as somewhat earlier than 19 million years ago, while the beginnings of the anthropoid ape line, on the other hand, are given as around 8, possibly 9, million years ago.
A salient feature of the new science is that it has become more philosophical. It is true that a number of outstanding scientists of the latter part of the 19th century were quite philosophical; but their work and conclusions were all too often smothered under the avalanche of materialistic thought which swept over and dominated the sciences and persisted well into this century, as the subject matter of its various disciplines became popularized. The growing realization by scientists of the limits of their capability to explain or even describe with any adequacy the full dynamism of life or the facts of being became apparent in a public way only in the 1930s and '40s. To a much greater extent it is humility which characterizes science in this last quarter of the 20th century; for, as Bronowski recently mused:
One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the twentieth century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable. . . . The world is not a fixed, solid array of objects, out there, for it cannot be fully separated from our perception of it. It shifts under our gaze, it interacts with us, and the knowledge that it yields has to be interpreted by us. There is no way of exchanging information that does not demand an act of judgment. . . . And that requires, not calculation, but insight, imagination — if you like, metaphysics. — The Ascent of Man, pp. 353, 364
Thus has this brilliant scientific thinker tacitly assented to the theosophical proposition held by the entire ancient world that man is part of the universe surrounding him, inseparable from it. Other scientists have in their own way registered similar thoughts. In a series of essays questioning where modern science is going, the great theoretical physicist, Max Planck, titled one essay, "Is the External World Real?" That was in the early 1930s. Another German physicist, Max Born (1882-1970) in his autobiography said: "I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actual philosophy."
If we turn to astronomy, a field which Dr. de Purucker calls "the most spiritual of the physical sciences," a similar panorama unfolds. In 1940, for example, a well-known astronomer of the Mount Wilson Observatory in southern California, Gustav Stromberg, composed a scientifically thoughtful book entitled The Soul of the Universe. Much more recently Sir Bernard Lovell, professor of radio astronomy at the University of Manchester and director of Jodrell Bank, wrote in an article in The New York Times Magazine, November 16, 1975, titled "Whence: We Are What We Know about Where We Came From," based on his presidential address to the British Association:
Throughout the whole of recorded history a consistent thread has been the intellectual purpose of man to discover the nature of the universe. Today we refer to this as the cosmological problem: That is, how did the universe come into existence, how did its current configurations — stars, solar systems, galaxies — evolve, and what is its future? . . . Is the answer transcendental or material?
Cosmology has in fact gained recognition as one of astronomy's three principal activities; it may fairly be called the philosophical content of this particular field of science. Most scientists would prefer using the term theoretical rather than philosophical to describe the trend we are discussing. But the word is not so important; the activity meant is clear — that is, a rational search for the truths and principles of being as these can be uncovered through the findings of science, rather than a concentration upon the potential for material application in those findings.
It is not altogether strange that this development is most fully apparent in the scientific fields that are particularly targeted at both extremes of the range of observation of material phenomena open to man: the subatomic at one end, and the galactic (or supergalactic) at the other. In both directions the riddles — of subatomic particles and of the light from celestial objects so distant that it has taken millions of years to reach us — are mental riddles, intellectual riddles, spiritual riddles. Progress here can be made only as scientists are willing to proceed with an open mind and an active intuition, so as to be ready to accept new truth wherever and just as it is discovered, even though it contradict all their current theories.
It has been said that the history of inquiry into the ultimate questions can be analyzed as a succession of ages, each of which exhibits a certain dominant or favorite mode of investigation into the facts of being. This is the religious, which gives way to the scientific, and is in turn succeeded by the philosophical. Dr. de Purucker has referred to this in his writings, noting that what we call religion, science and philosophy — three aspects or ways of looking at truth — are but the natural working of the threefold operations of human consciousness. We cannot separate these fundamental operations of consciousness, he says; and only their unified vision proclaims the recondite facts of the whole of being. We see the dogmatic religious assertions of one era cast aside, as men take a fresh and unencumbered look at themselves and surrounding nature. Such prolonged, careful observation, steadily compiled and compared, gives rise to clearer perceptions into nature's meaning. These, eventually, lead to a new and fuller realization of the divine-spiritual heart beating within and behind physical nature, its vehicle. In that manner the cycle brings us again to religion; but with an improved and refined devotion, a deeper and truer recognition of our oneness with all life, and a wiser understanding of our role in the awesome procession of the universe.
Table of Contents
1. Arthur March and Ira M. Freeman, The New World of Physics, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1963; p. 133. This book is based on an essay written by Professor March, late professor of theoretical physics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and published in 1957 in Hamburg, Germany. (return to text)
2. Cf. J. W. N. Sullivan, The Limitations of Science, Viking Press, New York, 1933; p. 148 and passim. This is one of the most lucid and comprehensive summaries of the revolution that has taken place in science and in the thinking of the foremost scientists since the late 19th century when H. P. Blavatsky wrote. This British mathematician and interpreter of physics (who died about 1940) is still regarded as one of the most brilliant intellects of his time. (return to text)
3. Mendel Sachs, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York. The author was then professor of physics and astronomy at the State University of New York in Buffalo. (return to text)
4. The Ascent of Man, Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1973; p. 344. (return to text)
5. See Graham Massey, "What's Wrong with the Sun?", The Listener, June 17, 1976; pp. 762-4. Massey's article is based on a BBC2 "Horizon" television program, which he produced and directed, that examined these and related discoveries in some depth. See also the article "When the Sun Went Strangely Quiet," by Kenneth Frazier, Science News, vol. 109, March 6, 1976; pp. 154-6; and "Solar Variability: Is The Sun An Inconstant Star?" by Allen Hammond, Science, vol. 191, March 19, 1976; pp. 1159-60. (return to text)
6. Cf. Nigel Calder, The Life Game, Viking Press, New York, 1973; p. 65 and passim. The author is a former editor of The New Scientist and science correspondent for The New Statesman. (return to text)
7. The term genus Homo refers to the primate genus within the Hominidae that includes modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens) and a number of extinct species such as Neanderthal man. The term simian refers to both monkeys and apes in general. Not all scientists, however, not even the anthropologists themselves, use all these terms with equal precision. They should be regarded as no more than the best guidelines science has thus far devised for a relatively clear classification of the subject matter. (return to text)
8. References in this Appendix to the dating of fossil materials by means of their associated deposits are, unless specified otherwise, to the potassium-argon method, a radiometric technique that depends upon the slow decay of a potassium isotope (potassium-40) into argon-40, a gas. It is used to date materials having an age greater than about 60,000 years before the present, and is restricted to volcanic and plutonic rock formations. Like all other radiometric methods the potassium-argon cannot be regarded as a definitive measurement of time periods, because it depends upon a belief in the constant rate of decay of element-isotopes. There is no way to prove, for example, that 5 million years ago those isotopes were decaying at the same rate they are now, especially if the earth and matter itself are credited with an evolutional course of change. Although radiometric methods are those primarily employed by much of contemporary science, we should accept their results as provisional at best. (return to text)
9. The letters B.P. after a date mean Before Present, "present" being considered for our purposes to be the present century. This system of dating has much greater utility for geological time than does the B.C. — A.D. system applied to our "local" time of recorded history. For the intent is to convey the total age of sites and fossil remains for instant contemporary understanding. Variations in the radiometric measurements of these can be as much as plus or minus several thousand years, making use of the local system almost meaningless. Use of the letters B.P. is becoming more widespread when referring to time measurements of millions of years. (return to text)
10. Dryopithecus is the name given an extensive group of very early anthropoid apes now regarded as the radical form of all the higher apes. Most fossil apes of the Miocene and Pliocene, with ages ranging from about 5 to 7 million years to about 20 million years B.P., are now classified within this single genus. Their earliest representatives appear in Africa some 20 million years ago; those of Europe and Asia are dated considerably later, about 15 million years B.P. (return to text)
11. Specifically, Oligopithecus and Aegyptopithecus as distinctly ape- or monkey-like animals, and Propliopithecus as hominid-like. (return to text)
12. It is worth noting that traditional records the world over agree that very early man was generally of gigantic stature, while later stocks have steadily decreased in size to what we see today. (return to text)
13. The depiction of Neanderthal man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints as a kind of half-monster — ungainly, ugly, brutish and with head thrust forward between its shoulders as the anthropoids carry theirs — which persisted as recently as 1957, has been shown as altogether untrue. In that year the skeleton was examined by William Straus of Johns Hopkins University and Alec Cave of St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College in London. They found it was that of an atypical old man who had suffered from arthritis of the jaws, spine and perhaps the limbs; and that the reconstruction of the skull, especially at its base, was unsatisfactory. M. Boule, of the Institute of Human Paleontology in Paris, who had examined and reconstructed the skeleton between 1908-12, prepared the highly respected and highly misleading report about Neanderthal's apelike posture and gait. It is now known that Neanderthal — whose relatively extensive remains have since been uncovered in Africa and Asia as well as Europe — walked as upright as do we and, if he could be seen walking the streets of one of our cities, would attract no more attention than many of its modern denizens. Neanderthal man lived "side by side for long ages" with other types of Homo sapiens, and some of his remains have been dated at between 120-200 thousand years B.P., according to contemporary anthropological estimates. (return to text)
14. This well-known British anthropologist has assembled a great deal of evidence for such a prospect in his study, Man and His Ancestry, Premier Books, Fawcett World Library, New York, 1964. (return to text)
15. For a full and interesting account of the growth of the idea of evolution from the time of the Greek philosophers until the early 19th century as seen by modern scholars, see The Great Chain of Being by Arthur O. Lovejoy, Harvard University Press, 1936 and 1964. This book is based on Lovejoy's delivery at Harvard University, 1933, of the William James Lectures on Philosophy and Psychology. (return to text)
16. Some researchers, notably Dr. John C. Lilly, maintain that dolphins and some whales, such as the sperm whale, have well-developed associational areas of cerebral cortex, which they compare to that displayed in the human brain. (return to text)
17. For his part, Dr. Kurten has also been struck by the inexplicably rapid expansion in brain size in certain hominid forms relative to others contemporaneous with them. He finds a strong probability that this took place two or three million years ago, but is unable to account for its occurrence:
"We can make guesses, and it is legitimate to do so, but we do not know for sure. We can only say that, based on the evidence at hand, it seems that the evolution of brain size was suddenly accelerated at least twice during Pleistocene times" (Not from the Apes, p. 136).
He estimates the Pleistocene epoch to have begun something more than three million years before the present. (return to text)
18. As quoted in Eiseley's The Immense Journey, pp. 83-4. For a fuller exposition of Wallace's views, see his Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, especially ch. 9-10; first printing, 1870; reprinted by AMS Press, New York, 1973. See also his Darwinism, especially ch. 15, "Darwinism Applied to Man," Macmillan & Co., New York & London, 1889. (return to text)
19. By V. Gordon Childe, Watts, London, 1942. Examples of other works that discuss the scientific attitude toward human cultural evolution are The Human Imperative by Alexander Alland, Jr., Columbia University Press, New York, 1972; and Naked Ape or Homo Sapiens?, by John Lewis and Bernard Towers, Garnstone Press, London, 1969. Dr. Alland is an anthropologist, Dr. Towers an anatomist, and Dr. Lewis a scientific writer with university training in science and anthropology. (return to text)
20. But this distinction between the respective concerns of science and theosophy is crucial, philosophically speaking. So much is this so that we find H. P. Blavatsky saying that the only real quarrel between theosophy and science is that the latter does not recognize the existence of an astral or etheric plane within the physical plane, through which inner and spiritual forces affect and shape the latter. (See The Secret Doctrine, II, 149.) (return to text)
21. While it is true that in the view of science identical twins carry the same genes, each is in actual fact a unique, separate individual, and this is well known even to laymen from simple observation. Here we have an example of the limitations of current scientific attempts to explain human individuality on the basis of genes alone; the cause and source of individuality is more recondite, although the bodies or factors we call genes may form an important part of the chemical mechanism that individuality uses for its physical expression. (return to text)
22. See the article, "A Molecular Time Scale for Human Evolution," by A. C. Wilson and V. M. Sarich (biochemists at the University of California, Berkeley), in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 63, September 1969; pp. 1088-93. For an informative overview of this subject, see the article, "The New Science of Human Evolution," by S. L. Washburn and E. R. McCown (members of the Anthropology Faculty at the University of California, Berkeley), in the 1974 Yearbook of Science and the Future, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, 1973; pp. 33-48. Kurten, Not from the Apes, pp. 42-4, discusses these blood-serum findings and says that comparative anatomy tends to support them; but he has his own views about their meaning and value. (return to text)
23. Gibbons and orangutans are found only in southeast Asia. The fossil record causes anthropologists to believe the orang diverged from man earlier than did the African apes, and the gibbon even earlier. Gibbons are classified in a family called the Hylobates, sometimes held to be distinct from the pongids, although they are regarded as anthropoids together with gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees. Gibbons obviously descend from a very ancient type of ape — possibly the oldest. (return to text)