ORIENTAL IDEAS ON THE SUBJECT.
The fact may seem rather queer that something exists which we know how to produce and how to utilize in such an infinity of effective ways that it is today one of the greatest factors in the world's progress, and yet we do not know what it is. But it is a fact, nevertheless. Not one of our scientists can tell us what electricity is. The latest and perhaps the best definition of it is: "Electricity, the name given to the unknown thing, matter, or force, or both, which is the cause of electric phenomena". Not much satisfying knowledge is offered in that pairing and compounding of alternatives. And the International Dictionary is scarcely more conclusive in pronouncing it "a power in nature, a manifestation of energy", with a long succedent statement of its qualities and conditions of manifestation which are properly evidences of its presence but by no means expositions of what it is. And Stormonth says it is "a highly subtile power. . . one of the forms of energy exhibited in lightning, etc." Really, we do not seem, for all our familiarity with its manifestations in late years, to have got at much more positive knowledge of its being than was possessed by an author who as long ago as 1799 defined it thus: "Electricity, a natural agent or power, generally called the electric fluid, which, by friction or other means, is excited and brought into action". Bain says: "The most recent theory of electricity is that it is a mode of ether. In order to establish this theory, it is necessary to transfer the question of the existence of ether from speculative philosophy to that of absolute reality". And he concludes that "electricity is a condition, an effect of matter, and it is not peculiar to any material. This condition in a state of equilibrium pervades all matter and all space, ready to produce an effect when its equilibrium is disturbed."
The theory of its etheric origin, which Bain is disposed to reject as undemonstrable, and his conclusions lie closer together in the Oriental concept of the subject than he has yet, perhaps, recognized, and are by no means antagonistic. The philosophers of the East have taught, for thousands of years it is averred, that there are in nature six primary forces or Saktis, which may be looked upon as rates of vibration, having their origination in the super-sensuous ether, and manifesting, according to their respective attributes, in matter. Of the six, only three have been partly investigated by our western science — neither one in its totality, but only in certain of its special manifestations — and one of these is the Kundalini-sakti, thus defined by the eminent Hindu pundit, T. Subba Row:
"Literally, the power or force which moves in a serpentine or curved path. It is the universal life-principle which everywhere manifests itself in nature. This force includes in itself the two great forces of attraction and repulsion. Electricity and magnetism are but manifestations of it. This is the power or force which brings about that continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations which is the essence of life according to Herbert Spencer, and that continuous adjustment of external relations to internal relations which is the basis of transmigration of souls of punarjanam (re-birth) according to the doctrine of the ancient Hindu philosophers."
The two other saktis in part known to our scientists are Para-sakti — literally, the great or supreme force or power. It means and includes the powers of light and heat. Gnana-sakti — literally, the power of intellect or the power of real wisdom or knowledge.
It will be observed that the powers of light and heat are thus attributed to one sakti, and electricity to another, which at first blush would seem to differ from the conclusions of our western scientists generally, who, observing the interconvertability of heat, light, energy, magnetism, electricity, and chemical effect, esteem them all modes of manifestation of one and the same energy. But a better understanding of their coordinate and conjoint manifestations under the control of the great synthesizing sakti, the seventh — about which the wise men of the East are chary of affording exoteric teaching — will perhaps demonstrate and explain harmony where difference now appears to exist. It is more than probable that the saktis blend their action, each partaking of all the others in infinitely various degrees when in manifestation, just as the "states of consciousness" overlap and mingle, in the same teachings.
Suggestions of importance toward demonstration of the reality of the ether, and perhaps eventually of their inter-etheric akasa, are afforded by Tesla's recent experiments. From these it appears that electric energy, properly applied and of sufficiently high potential, will render rarified air self-luminous. Whether the energy manifests itself as heat or light depends upon the velocity of the etheric vibrations induced, those of the latter being much the higher.
Modern science now generally recognizes what the Eastern sages have taught for hundreds of thousands of years, that the various colors and tones are objective evidences of measurable rates of vibration. A step or two further and our wise men will learn that all the forces of nature, the entire universe, not simply the material within our consciousness but the supersensuous planes beyond, are manifested rates of vibration — "differentiated aspects of the Universal Motion". From that "Universal Motion" as the seventh sakti — centred, according to the Kabalists, in the "central sun" — all originate and to it all must return. All the minor saktis, springing from a common origin, have definite and ascertainable characteristics in common, or correspondences, and none manifests alone on our material plane, without admixture of some qualities or attributes of others. But it will be as hopeless for man to attempt comprehension of the mysteries of those awful forces and the laws in conformity to which they act upon the plane of matter, studying them from the wholly material standpoint, where only their lowest and weakest manifestations can be cognized, as it would be for a bug perched upon the periphery of a fly-wheel to understand, from his observations there, the laws and properties of steam originating in an engine the motion communicated to his wheel.
It will be found of curious and suggestive interest, in connection with this subject, to learn with what broad comprehensiveness, viewed in the light of our most modern science, the Hindu philosophers have taught for ages past the field of the power styled the Gnana-sakti. The pundit already cited (T. Subba Row) says:
"(I) The following are some of its manifestations when placed under the influence or control of material conditions. (a) The power of the mind in interpreting our sensations. (b) Its power in recalling past ideas (memory) and raising future expectation. (c) Its power as exhibited in what are called by modern psychologists the 'laws of association', which enables it to form persisting connections between various groups of sensations and possibilities of sensations, and thus generate the notion or idea of an external object. (d) Its power in connecting our ideas together by the mysterious link of memory, and thus generating the notion of self or individuality.
(II) The following are some of its manifestations when liberated from the bonds of matter: (a) Clairvoyance, (b) Psychometry."
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