Theosophical University Press Online Edition
[[This page continued from previous section]]
Most decidedly Light is not a body, we are told. Physical Sciences say Light is a Force, a vibration, the undulation of ether. It is the property or quality of matter, or even an affection thereof — never a body!
Just so. For this discovery, the knowledge — whatever it may be worth — that light or caloric is not a motion of material particles, Science is chiefly indebted, if not solely, to Sir W. Grove. It was he who was the first in a lecture at the London Institution, in 1842, to show that
“light, heat, etc., etc.* are affections of matter itself, and not a distinct ethereal, ‘imponderable,’ fluid, (a state of matter now) permeating it.” (See “Correlation of the Physical Forces,” Preface). Yet, perhaps, for some physicists — as for Oersted, a very eminent Scientist — Force and Forces were tacitly “Spirit (and hence Spirits) in Nature.” What several rather mystical Scientists taught was that light, heat, magnetism, electricity and gravity, etc., were not the final causes of the visible phenomena, including planetary motion, but themselves the Secondary effects of other Causes, for which Science in our day cares very little, but in which Occultism believes, for the Occultists have exhibited proofs of the validity of their claims in every age. And in what age were there no Occultists and no Adepts?
Sir Isaac Newton held to the Pythagorean corpuscular theory, and was also inclined to admit its consequences; which made the Count de Maistre hope, at one time, that Newton would ultimately lead Science back to the recognition of the fact that Forces and the Celestial bodies were propelled and guided by Intelligences (Soirees, vol. ii.). But de Maistre counted without his host. The innermost thoughts and ideas of Newton were perverted, and of his great mathematical learning only the mere physical husk was turned to account. Had poor Sir Isaac foreseen to what use his successors and followers would apply his “gravity,”† that pious and religious man would surely have quietly eaten his apple, and never breathed a word about any mechanical ideas connected with its fall.
Great contempt is shown for metaphysics generally and for onto-
* Mr. Robert Ward, discussing the questions of Heat and Light in the November Journal of Science, 1881, shows us how utterly ignorant is Science about one of the commonest facts of nature — the heat of the sun. He says: — “The question of the temperature of the sun has been the subject of investigation with many scientists: Newton, one of the first investigators of this problem, tried to determine it, and after him all the scientists who have been occupied with calorimetry have followed his example. All have believed themselves successful, and have formulated their results with great confidence. The following, in the chronological order of the publication of the results, are the temperatures (in centigrade degrees) found by each of them: Newton, 1,699,300 deg.; Pouillet, 1,461 deg.; Tollner, 102,200 deg.; Secchi, 5,344,840 deg.; Ericsson, 2,726,700 deg.; Fizeau, 7,500 deg.; Waterston, 9,000,000 deg.; Spoeren, 27,000 deg.; Deville, 9,500 deg.; Soret, 5,801,846 deg.; Vicaire, 1,500 deg.; Rosetti, 20,000 deg. The difference is as 1,400 deg. against 9,000,000 deg., or no less than 8,998,600 deg.!! There probably does not exist in science a more astonishing contradiction than that revealed in these figures. And yet without doubt if an Occultist were to give out an estimate, each of these gentlemen would vehemently protest in the name of ‘Exact’ Science at the rejection of his special result.” (From the Theosophist.)
† According to one atheistic idealist — Dr. Lewins — “When Sir Isaac, in 1687 . . . . showed mass and atom acted upon . . . . by innate activity . . . . he effectually disposed of Spirit, Anima, or Divinity, as supererogatory.”
logical metaphysics especially. But we see, whenever the Occultists are bold enough to raise their diminished heads, that materialistic, physical science is honey-combed with metaphysics;* that its most fundamental principles, while inseparably wedded to transcendentalism, are nevertheless, in order to show modern science divorced from such “dreams,” tortured and often ignored in the maze of contradictory theories and hypotheses. A very good corroboration of this charge lies in the fact that Science finds itself absolutely compelled to accept the “hypothetical” Ether and to try to explain it on the materialistic grounds of atomo-mechanical laws. This attempt has led directly to the most fatal discrepancies and radical inconsistencies between the assumed nature of Ether and its physical actions. A second proof is found in the many contradictory statements about the atom — the most metaphysical object in creation.
Now, what does the modern science of physics know of AEther, the first concept of which belongs undeniably to ancient philosophers, the Greeks having borrowed it from the Aryans, and the origin of modern AEther being found in, and disfigured from, Akasa? This disfigurement
* Stallo’s above-cited work, “Concepts of Modern Physics,” a volume which has called forth the liveliest protests and criticisms, is recommended to anyone inclined to doubt this statement. “The professed antagonism of Science to metaphysics,” he writes, “has led the majority of scientific specialists to assume that the methods and results of empirical research are wholly independent of the control of the laws of thought. They either silently ignore, or openly repudiate, the simplest canons of logic, including the laws of non-contradiction and . . . resent with the utmost vehemence, every application of the rule of consistency to their hypotheses and theories . . . . and they regard an examination (of these) . . . . in the light of these laws as an impertinent intrusion of ‘a priori principles and methods’ into the domains of empirical science. Persons of this cast of mind find no difficulty in holding that atoms are absolutely inert, and at the same time asserting that these atoms are perfectly elastic; or in maintaining that the physical universe, in its last analysis, resolves itself into ‘dead’ matter and motion, and yet denying that all physical energy is in reality kinetic; or in proclaiming that all phenomenal differences in the objective world are ultimately due to the various motions of absolutely simple material units, and, nevertheless, repudiating the proposition that these units are equal” . . . . (p. xix.) “The blindness of eminent physicists to some of the most obvious consequences of their own theories is marvellous . . . . When Prof. Tait, in conjunction with Prof. Stewart, announces that ‘matter is simply passive’ (The Unseen Universe, sec. 104), and then, in connection with Sir W. Thomson, declares that ‘matter has an innate power of resisting external influences’ (Treat. on Nat. Phil., Vol. I., sec. 216), it is hardly impertinent to inquire how these statements are to be reconciled. When Prof. Du Bois Reymond . . . . insists upon the necessity of reducing all the processes of nature to motions of a substantial, indifferent substratum, wholly destitute of quality (‘Ueber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens,’ p. 5), having declared shortly before in the same lecture that ‘resolution of all changes in the material world into motions of atoms caused by their constant central forces would be the completion of natural science,’ we are in a perplexity from which we have to be relieved.” (Pref. xliii.)
is claimed to be a modification and refinement of the idea of Lucretius. Let us then examine the modern concept from several scientific volumes containing the admissions of the physicists themselves.
The existence of Ether is accepted by physical astronomy, in ordinary physics, and in chemistry. Astronomers, who first began by regarding it as a fluid of extreme tenuity and mobility, offering no sensible resistance to the motions of celestial bodies, never gave a thought to its continuity or discontinuity. “Its main function in modern astronomy has been to serve as a basis for hydrodynamical theories of gravitation. In physics this fluid appeared for some time in several roles in connection with the ‘imponderables’ ” — so cruelly put to death by Sir W. Grove. Some physicists have even identified the ether of space with those “imponderables.” Then came their Kinetic theories; and from the date of the dynamical theory of heat, it was chosen in optics as a substratum for luminous undulations. Then, in order to explain the dispersion and polarization of light, physicists had to resort once more to their “scientific imagination” and forthwith endowed the Ether with (a) atomic or molecular structure, and (b) with an enormous elasticity, “so that its resistance to deformation far exceeded that of the most rigid elastic bodies” (Stallo). This necessitated the theory of the essential discontinuity of matter, hence of Ether. After having accepted this discontinuity, in order to account for dispersion and polarization, theoretical impossibilities were discovered with regard to such dispersions. Cauchy’s “scientific imagination” saw in atoms “material points without extension,” and he proposed, in order to obviate the most formidable obstacles to the undulatory theory (namely, some well-known mechanical theorems which stood in the way), to assume that the ethereal medium of propagation, instead of being continuous, should consist of particles separated by sensible distances. Fresnel rendered the same service to the phenomena of polarization. E. B. Hunt upset the theories of both (Silliman’s Journal, vol. viii., p. 364 et seq.) There are now men of Science who proclaim them “materially fallacious,” while others — the “atomo-mechanicalists” — cling to to them with desperate tenacity. The supposition of an atomic or molecular constitution of ether is upset, moreover, by thermo-dynamics, for Clerk Maxwell showed that such a medium would be simply gas.* The hypothesis of “finite intervals” is thus proven of no avail as a supplement to the undulatory theory. Besides, eclipses fail to reveal any such variation of colour as supposed by Cauchy (on the assumption that the chromatic rays are propagated with different velocities).
* See Clerk Maxwell’s “Treatise on Electricity of Magnetism” and compare with Cauchy’s “Memoire sur la Dispersion de la lumiere.”
Astronomy has pointed out more than one phenomenon absolutely at variance with this doctrine.
Thus, while in one department of physics the atomo-molecular constitution of the ether is accepted in order to account for one set of special phenomena, in another department such a constitution is found quite subversive of a number of well-ascertained facts, Hirn’s charges being thus justified (vide supra). Chemistry deemed it impossible to concede enormous elasticity to the ether without depriving it of other properties, upon the assumption of which the construction of its modern theories depended. This ended in a final transformation of ether. The exigencies of the atomo-mechanical theory have led distinguished mathematicians and physicists to attempt to substitute for the traditional atoms of matter, peculiar forms of vortical motion in a “universal homogeneous, incompressible, and continuous material medium,” or AEther. (See Stallo.)
The present writer, claiming no great scientific education, but only a tolerable acquaintance with modern theories, and a better one with Occult Sciences, picks up weapons against the detractors of the esoteric teaching in the very arsenal of modern Science. The glaring contradictions, the mutually-destructive hypotheses of world-renowned Scientists, their mutual accusations, denunciations and disputes, show plainly that, whether accepted or not, the Occult theories have as much right to a hearing as any of the so-called learned and academical hypotheses. Thus whether the followers of the Royal Society choose to accept ether as a continuous or a discontinuous fluid matters little, and is indifferent to the present purpose. It simply points to one certainty: Official Science knows nothing to this day of the constitution of ether. Let Science call it matter, if it likes; only neither as akasa nor as the one sacred AEther of the Greeks, is it to be found in any of the states of matter known to modern physics. It is matter on quite another plane of perception and being, and it can neither be analyzed by scientific apparatus, appreciated, nor even conceived by “scientific imagination,” unless the possessors thereof study the Occult Sciences. That which follows proves this statement.
It is clearly demonstrated by Stallo as regards the crucial problems of modern physics (as was done by De Quatrefages and several others in those of anthropology, biology, etc., etc.) that, in their efforts to support their individual hypotheses and systems, the majority of the eminent and learned materialists very often utter the greatest fallacies. Let us take the following case. Most of them reject actio in distans (one of the fundamental principles in the question of AEther or Akasa in Occultism), while, as Stallo justly observes, there is no physical action,
“which, on close examination, does not resolve itself into actio in distans”; and he proves it.
Now, metaphysical arguments, according to Professor Lodge (Nature, vol. xxvii., p. 304), are “unconscious appeals to experience.” And he adds that if such an experience is not conceivable, then it does not exist, etc. In his own words: — “. . . If a highly-developed mind or set of minds, find a doctrine about some comparatively simple and fundamental matter absolutely unthinkable, it is an evidence . . . that the unthinkable state of things has no existence, etc.”
And thereupon, toward the end of his lecture, Professor Lodge indicates that the explanation of cohesion, as well as of gravity, “is to be looked for in the vortex-atom theory of Sir William Thomson” (Stallo).
It is needless to stop to inquire whether it is to this vortex-theory, also, that we have to look for the dropping down on earth of the first life-germ by a passing meteor or comet (Sir W. Thomson’s hypothesis). But Mr. Lodge might be reminded of the wise criticism on his lecture in the same “Concepts of Modern Physics.” Noticing the above quoted declaration by the London Professor, the author asks “whether . . . the elements of the vortex-theory are familiar, or even possible, facts of experience? For, if they are not, clearly that theory is obnoxious to the same criticism which is said to invalidate the assumption of actio in distans” (p. xxiv). And then the able critic shows clearly what the Ether is not, nor can ever be, notwithstanding all scientific claims to the contrary. And thus he opens widely, if unconsciously, the entrance door to our occult teachings. For, as he says: —
“The medium in which the vortex-movements arise is, according to Professor Lodge’s own express statement (nature, vol. xxvii., p. 305), ‘a perfectly homogeneous, incompressible, continuous body, incapable of being resolved into simple elements or atoms: it is, in fact, continuous, not molecular.’ And after making this statement Professor Lodge adds: ‘There is no other body of which we can say this, and hence the properties of the aether must be somewhat different from those of ordinary matter.’ It appears, then, that the whole vortex-atom theory, which is offered to us as a substitute for the ‘metaphysical theory’ of actio in distans, rests upon the hypothesis of the existence of a material medium which is utterly unknown to experience, and which has properties somewhat different* from those of ordinary matter. Hence this theory, instead of being, as is claimed, a reduction of an unfamiliar fact of experience to a familiar fact, is,
* “Somewhat different!” exclaims Stallo. “The real import of this ‘somewhat’ is, that the medium in question is not, in any intelligible sense, material at all, having none of the properties of matter.” All the properties of matter depend upon differences and changes, and the “hypothetical” aether here defined is not only destitute of differences, but incapable of difference and change — (in the physical sense let us add). This proves that if aether is “matter” it is so only as something visible, tangible and existing, for spiritual senses alone; that it is a Being indeed — but not of our plane: Pater AEther, or Akasa.
on the contrary, a reduction of a fact which is perfectly familiar, to a fact which is not only unfamiliar, but wholly unknown, unobserved and unobservable. Furthermore, the alleged vortical motion of, or rather in, the assumed ethereal medium is . . . impossible, because “motion in a perfectly homogeneous, incompressible, and therefore continuous fluid, is not sensible motion.” . . . . It is manifest, therefore, that wherever the vortex-atom theory may lead us, it certainly does not lead us anywhere in the region of physics, or in the domain of verae causae.* And I may add that, inasmuch as the hypothetical undifferentiated† and undifferentiable medium is clearly an involuntary re-ification of the old ontological concept pure being, the theory under discussion has all the attributes of an inapprehensible metaphysical phantom.”
A “phantom” indeed, which can be made apprehensible only by Occultism. From such scientific metaphysics to Occultism there is hardly one step. Those physicists who hold the view that the atomic constitution of matter is consistent with its penetrability, need not go far out of their way to be able to account for the greatest phenomena of Occultism, now so derided by physical scientists and materialists. Cauchy’s “material points without extension” are Leibnitz’s monads, and at the same time the materials out of which the “Gods” and other invisible powers clothe themselves in bodies (vide infra, “Gods, Monads and Atoms”). The disintegration and reintegration of “material” particles without extension as a chief factor in phenomenal manifestations ought to suggest themselves very easily as a clear possibility, at any rate to those few scientific minds which accept M. Cauchy’s views. For, disposing of that property of matter which they call impenetrability by simply regarding the atoms as “material points exerting on each other attractions and repulsions which vary with the distances that separate them” — the French theorist explains that: “From this it follows that, if it pleased the author of nature‡ simply to modify the laws according to which the atoms attract or repel each other, we might instantly see the hardest bodies penetrating each other, the smallest particles of matter occupying immense spaces, or the largest masses reducing themselves to the smallest volumes, the entire universe concentrating itself, as it were, in a single point.” (Sept lecons de physique Generale, p. 38 et seq., ed. Moigno.)
And that “point,” invisible on our plane of perception and matter, is quite visible to the eye of the adept who can follow and see it present on other planes.
* Verae causae for physical science are mayavic or illusionary causes to the Occultist, and vice versa.
† Very much “differentiated,” on the contrary, since the day it left its laya condition.
‡ For the Occultists who say that the author of nature is nature itself, something indistinct and inseparable from the Deity, it follows that those who are conversant with the occult laws of nature, and know how to change and provoke new conditions in ether, may — not modify the laws, but work and do the same in accordance with those immutable laws.