Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Considering that “final cause is pronounced a chimera, and the first Great Cause is remanded to the Sphere of the Unknown,” as a reverend gentleman justly complains, the number of hypotheses put forward, a nebula in itself, is most remarkable. The profane student is perplexed, and does not know in which of the theories of exact science he has to believe. Here we have hypotheses enough for every taste and power of brain. They are all extracted from a number of scientific volumes.
Current Hypotheses explaining the Origin of Rotation.
Rotation has originated either —
(a) By the collision of nebular masses wandering aimlessly in space; or by attraction, “in cases where no actual impact takes place.”
(b) “By the tangential action of currents of nebulous matter (in the case of an amorphous nebula) descending from higher to lower levels,* or simply by the action of the central gravity of the mass.”†
“It is a fundamental principle in physics that no rotation could be generated in such a mass by the action of its own parts. As well attempt to change the course of a steamer by pulling at the deck railing,” remarks to this Prof. Winchell in “World-Life.”
Hypotheses of the Origin of the Seven Planets and Comets.
(a.) We owe the birth of the Planets (1) to an explosion of the Sun — a parturition of its central mass;‡ or (2) to some kind of disruption of the nebular rings.
(b) “The Comets are strangers to our planetary system” (La Place). “The Comets are undeniably generated in our Solar system” (Faye).
(c) The “fixed stars are motionless” says one authority. . . . “All the stars are actually in motion” answers another authority. . . “Undoubtedly every star is in motion” (Wolf).
(d) “For over 350,000,000 years, the slow and majestic movement of the Sun around its axis has never for a moment ceased” (Panorama des Mondes, Le Couturier.)
* The terms “high” and “low” being only relative to the position of the observer in Space, any use of those terms tending to convey the impression that they stand for abstract realities, is necessarily fallacious.
† Jacob Ennis, “The Origin of the Stars,” p. 221 et seq.
‡ If such is the case, how does Science explain the comparatively small size of the planets nearest the Sun? The theory of meteoric aggregation is only a step farther from truth than the nebular conception, and has not even the quality of the latter — its metaphysical element.
(e) And “the sun having Alcyone in the Pleiades for the centre of its orbit, consumes 180,000,000 of years in completing its revolution” (Maedler). And also,
(f) That, “the Sun has existed no more than 15,000,000 of years, and will emit heat for no longer than 10,000,000 years more” (Sir W. Thomson’s lecture on “the latent dynamical theory regarding the probable origin, total amount of heat, and duration of the Sun,” 1887).
A few years ago this eminent Scientist was telling the world that the time required for the earth to cool from incipient incrustation to its present state, could not exceed 80,000,000 years*;(Thomson and Tait, Natural Philosophy.) If the encrusted age of the world is only 40 millions, or the half of the duration once allowed, and the Sun’s age only 15 millions, have we to understand that the earth was at one time independent of the Sun?
Since the ages of the Sun, planets, and the Earth, as stated in the many scientific hypotheses of the astronomers and physicists, are given elsewhere (infra), we have said enough to show the disagreement between the ministers of modern Science. Whether we accept the fifteen million years of Sir W. Thomson or the thousand millions of Mr. Huxley, for the rotational evolution of our solar system, it will always come to this; by accepting self-generated rotation for the heavenly bodies composed of inert matter and yet moved by their own internal motion, for millions of years, this teaching of Science amounts to —
(a) An evident denial of that fundamental physical law, which states that “a body in motion tends constantly to inertia, (i.e., to continue in the same state of motion or rest), unless it is stimulated into further action by a superior active force.”
(b.) To an original impulse, which culminates in an unalterable motion, within a resisting ether that Newton had declared incompatible with that motion.
(c.) Universal gravity, which, we are taught, always tends to a centre in rectilinear descent — alone the cause of the revolution of the whole solar system, which is performing an eternal double gyration, each body around its axis and orbit. Another occasional version is: —
(d.) A magnet in the Sun; or, the said revolution due to a magnetic force, which acts, just as gravitation does, in a straight line — varying inversely as the square of the distance. (Coulomb’s Law.)
(e.) The whole acting under invariable and changeless laws, which are, nevertheless, often shown variable, as during some well-known freaks
* And even on these figures Bischof disagrees with Thomson, and calculates that 350 million years would be required for the earth to cool from a temperature of 20,000° to 200° centigrade. This is, also, the opinion of Helmholtz.
of planets and other bodies, as also when the Comets approach to or recede from the Sun.
(f.) A Motor Force always proportionate to the mass it is acting upon; but independent of the specific nature of that mass, to which it is proportionate; which amounts to saying, as Le Couturier does, that, “without that Force independent from and of quite another nature than the said mass, the latter, were it as huge as Saturn, or as tiny as Ceres, would always fall with the same rapidity” (Musee des Sciences, 15 August, 1857). A mass, furthermore, which derives its weight from the body on which it weighs.
Thus neither Laplace’s perceptions of a solar atmospheric fluid, which would extend beyond the orbits of the planets, nor Le Couturier’s electricity, nor Foucault’s heat (Panorama des Mondes, p. 55), nor this, nor the other, can ever help any of the numerous hypotheses about the origin and permanency of rotation to escape from this squirrel’s wheel, any more than the theory of gravity itself. This mystery is the Procrustean bed of physical Science. If matter is, as now taught, passive, the simplest movement cannot be said to be an essential property of matter — if the latter is simply an inert mass. How, then, can such a complicated movement, compound and multiple, harmonious and equilibrated, lasting in the eternities for millions and millions of years, be attributed simply to its own inherent Force, unless the latter is an intelligence? A physical will is something new — a conception that the ancients would have never entertained, indeed!*
“We talk of the weight of the heavenly bodies,” says an astronomer; “but since it is recognised that weight decreases in proportion to the distance from the centre, it becomes evident that, at a certain distance, that weight must be forcibly reduced to Zero? Were there any attraction there would be equilibrium . . . . And since the modern school recognizes neither a beneath nor an above in universal space, it is not clear what should cause the Earth to fall, were there even no gravitation, nor attraction.” (Cosmographie.)
Methinks the Count de Maistre was right in solving the question in his own theological way. He cuts the Gordian knot by saying: — “The
* For over a century all distinction between body and force is made away with. “Force is but the property of a body in motion,” say the physicists; and “life — the property of our animal organs — is but the result of their molecular arrangement,” answer the physiologists. “In the bosom of that aggregate which is named planet,” teaches Littre, “are developed all the forces immanent to matter . . . i.e., that matter possesses in itself and through itself the forces that are proper to it . . . and which are primary, not secondary. Such forces are the property of weight, the property of electricity, of terrestrial magnetism, the property of life. . . . Every planet can develop life . . . as earth, for instance, which had not always mankind on it, and now bears (produit) men” . . . (Revue des Deux Mondes, July 15,1860.)
planets rotate because they are made to rotate . . . . . and the modern physical system of the universe is a physical impossibility.” (Soirees.) For did not Herschell say the same thing when he remarked that there is a will needed to impart a circular motion, and another will to restrain it? (Discours, 165.) This shows and explains how a retarded planet is cunning enough to calculate so well its time as to hit off its arrival at the fixed minute. For, if Science sometimes succeeds with its great ingenuity in explaining some of such stoppages, retrograde motions, angles outside the orbits, &c., &c., by appearances resulting from the inequality of their progress and ours in the course of our mutual and respective orbits, we still know that there are others, and “very real and considerable deviations,” according to Herschell, “which cannot be explained except by the mutual and irregular action of those planets and by the perturbing influence of the Sun.”
We understand, however, that there are, besides those little and accidental perturbations, continuous perturbations called “secular” — because of the extreme slowness with which the irregularity increases and affects the relations of the elliptic movement — and that these perturbations can be corrected. From Newton, who found that this world needed repairing very often, down to Reynaud, all say the same. In his Ciel et Terre (p. 28), the latter speaks of —
“. . . . . The orbits described by the planets as being very far from immutable; on the contrary, subject to a perpetual mutation in their position and form,” — all prove gravitation and the peripatetic laws to be as negligent as they are quick to repair their mistakes. The charge as it stands seems to be that “they (the orbits) are alternately widening and narrowing, their great axis lengthens and diminishes, or oscillates at the same time from right to left around the Sun, the plane itself, in which they are situated, raising and lowering itself periodically while pivoting around itself with a kind of tremor. . . .”
To this, De Mirville, who believes in intelligent “workmen” ruling invisibly the solar system — as we do — observes very wittily* . . . . . “Voila certes, a voyage which has little in it of mechanical rigour; at the utmost, one could compare it to a steamer, pulled to and fro and tossed on the waves, retarded or accelerated, all and each of which impediments might put off its arrival indefinitely, were there not the intelligences of a pilot and engineers to catch up the time lost, and to repair the damages. . . . .”
The law of gravity, however, seems to be becoming an obsolete law in starry heaven. At any rate those long-haired sidereal radicals, called comets, appear to be very poor respecters of the majesty of that law,
* Deuxieme memoire, “Manifestations Historiques,” p. 272.
and to beard it quite impudently. Nevertheless, and though presenting in nearly every respect “phenomena not yet fully understood,” comets and meteors are credited by the believers in modern Science with obeying the same laws and consisting of the same matter, “as the Suns, stars and nebulae,” and even “the earth and its inhabitants.” (Laing’s “Modern Science and Modern Thought.”)
This is what one might call taking things on trust, aye, even to blind faith. But exact Science is not to be questioned, and he who rejects the hypotheses imagined by her students — gravitation, for instance — would be regarded as an ignorant fool for it; yet we are told by the just cited author a queer legend from the scientific annals. “The comet of 1811 had a tail 120 millions of miles in length and 25 millions of miles in diameter at the widest part, while the diameter of the nucleus was about 127,000 miles, more than ten times that of the earth.” He tells us, “in order that bodies of this magnitude, passing near the earth, should not affect its motion or change the length of the year by even a single second, their actual substance must be inconceivably rare. . . .” It must be so indeed, yet: —
“. . . . . The extreme tenuity of a comet’s mass is also proved by the phenomenon of the tail, which, as the comet approaches the sun, is thrown out sometimes to a length of 90 millions of miles in a few hours. And what is remarkable, this tail is thrown out against the force of gravity by some repulsive force, probably electrical, so that it always points away from the Sun (!!!) And yet, thin as the matter of comets must be, IT OBEYS THE COMMON LAW OF GRAVITY (!?), and whether the comet revolves in an orbit within that of the outer planets, or shoots off into the abysses of Space, and returns only after hundreds of years, its path is, at each instant, regulated by the same force as that which causes an apple to fall to the ground.” (Ibid, p. 17.)
Science is like Caesar’s wife, and must not be suspected — this is evident. But it can be respectfully criticised, nevertheless. At all events, it may be reminded that “the apple” is a dangerous fruit. For the second time in the history of mankind, it may become the cause of the FALL —this time, of “exact” Science. A comet whose tail defies the law of gravity right in the Sun’s face can hardly be credited with obeying that law.
In a series of scientific works on Astronomy and the nebular theory, written between 1865 and 1866, the present writer, a poor tyro in Science, has counted in a few hours, no less than thirty-nine contradictory hypotheses offered as explanations for the self-generated, primitive rotatory motion of the heavenly bodies. The writer is no astronomer, no mathematician, no scientist; but was obliged to examine these errors in defence of Occultism, in general, and what is still more
important, in order to support the occult teachings concerning astronomy and Cosmology. Occultists were threatened with terrible penalties for questioning scientific truths. But now they feel braver; Science is less secure in its “impregnable” position than they were led to expect, and many of its strongholds are built on very shifting sands.
Thus, even this poor and unscientific examination of it was useful, and it was certainly very instructive. We have learned a good many things, in fact, having studied with particular care especially those astronomical data that would be the most likely to clash with our heterodox and “superstitious” beliefs.
So, for instance, we have found there, concerning gravitation, the axial and orbital motions, that synchronous movement having been once overcome, in the early stage — it was enough to originate a rotatory motion till the end of Manvantara. We have also come to know in all the aforesaid combinations of possibilities with regard to incipient rotation — most complicated in every case, — some of the causes to which it may have been due, as well as some others to which it ought and should have been due, but, in some way or other, was not. Among other things, we were informed that incipient rotation may be provoked with equal ease in a mass in igneous fusion, and in one that is characterised by glacial opacity (“Heaven and Earth”). That gravitation is a law which nothing can overcome, but which, nevertheless, is overcome in and out of season by the most ordinary celestial or terrestrial bodies — the tails of impudent comets, for instance. That we owe the universe to the holy creative Trinity, called Inert Matter, Senseless Force and Blind Chance. Of the real essence and nature of any of these three, Science knows nothing, but this is a trifling detail. Ergo, we are told that, when a mass of cosmic or nebular matter — whose nature is unknown (entirely so), and which may be in a state of fusion (Laplace), or dark and cold (Thomson), for “this intervention of heat is itself a pure hypothesis” (Faye) — decides to exhibit its mechanical energy under the form of rotation, it acts in this wise. It (the mass) either bursts into spontaneous conflagration, or it remains inert, tenebrous, and frigid, both states being equally capable of sending it, without any adequate cause, spinning through space for millions of years. Its movements may be retrograde and they may be direct, about a hundred various reasons being offered for both motions, in about as many hypotheses. Anyhow, joining the maze of stars, whose origin belongs to the same miraculous and spontaneous order — for “the nebular theory does not profess to discover the origin of things, but only a stadium in material history” (Winchell: World-Life) — those millions of suns, planets, and satellites, composed of inert matter, will whirl on in most impressive and majestic symmetry around the firmament, moved
and guided only, their inertia notwithstanding, “by their own internal motion.”
Shall we wonder after this if learned mystics, pious Roman Catholics, and even such learned astronomers as were Chaubard and Godefroy,* have preferred the Kabala and the ancient systems to the modern dreary and contradictory exposition of the Universe? The Zohar makes a distinction, at any rate, between “the hajaschar (“the light Forces”), the hachoser (“Reflected Lights”), and the simple phenomenal exteriority of their spiritual types.” (See Kabala Denudata, ii, 67.)
The question of “gravity” may now be dismissed, and other hypotheses examined. That physical Science knows nothing of “Forces” is clear. We may close the argument, however, by calling to our help one more man of Science — Professor Jaumes, Member of the Academy of Medicine at Montpellier. Says this learned man, speaking of Forces: —
“A cause is that which is essentially acting in the genealogy of phenomena, in every production as in every modification. I said that activity (or Force) was invisible. . . . To suppose it corporeal and residing in the properties of matter would be a gratuitous hypothesis. . . To reduce all the causes to God. . . . would amount to embarrassing oneself with a hypothesis hostile to many verities. But to speak of a plurality of forces proceeding from the Deity and possessing inherent powers of their own, is not unreasonable. . . . and I am disposed to admit phenomena produced by intermediate agents called Forces or Secondary Agents. The distinction of Forces is the principle of the division of Sciences; so many real and separate forces, so many mother-Sciences. . . . No: Forces are not suppositions and abstractions, but realities, and the only acting realities whose attributes can be determined with the help of direct observation and induction.” (“Sur la distinction des Forces,” published in the Memoires de l’Academie des Sciences de Montpellier, Vol. II., fasc. I., 1854.)
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* L’Univers explique par la Revelation, and Cosmogonie de la Revelation. But see De Mirville’s Deuxieme Memoire. The author, a terrible enemy of Occultism, was yet one who wrote great truths.