Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Modern Science is ancient thought distorted, and no more. We have seen, however, what intuitional scientists think, and are busy about; and now the reader may be given a few more proofs of the fact that more than one F.R.S. is unconsciously approaching the derided Secret Sciences.
With regard to cosmogony and primeval matter, modern speculations are undeniably ancient thought, improved by contradictory theories of recent origin. But the whole foundation belongs to Grecian and Indian Archaic astronomy and physics, in those days always called philosophy. In all the Aryan and Greek speculations, one meets with the conception of an all-pervading, unorganized, and homogeneous matter, or Chaos, re-named by modern scientists “Nebular condition of the world-stuff.” What Anaxagoras called “Chaos” in his Homoiomeria is now called “primitive fluid” by Sir W. Thomson. The Hindu and Greek Atomists — Kanada, Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus, Lucretius, etc., etc., are now reflected as in a clear mirror, in the supporters of the atomic theory of our modern days, beginning with Leibnitz’s Monads, and ending with the “Vortical Atoms” of Sir W. Thomson.* True, the corpuscular theory of old is rejected, and the undulatory theory has taken its place. But the question is, whether the latter is so firmly established as not to be liable to be dethroned as was its predecessor? Light from its metaphysical aspect was fully treated of in “Isis Unveiled”: —
“Light is the first begotten, and the first emanation of the Supreme, and Light is Life, says the Evangelist and the Kabalist. Both are electricity — the life principle, the anima mundi, pervading the universe, the electric vivifier of all things. Light is the great Protean magician, and under the divine will of the architect,† or rather the architects, the “Builders” (called One collectively), its multifarious, omnipotent waves gave birth to every form as well as to every living being. From its swelling electric bosom, spring matter and spirit. Within its beams lie the beginnings of all physical and chemical action, and of all cosmic and spiritual phenomena; it vitalizes and disorganizes; it gives life and produces death, and from its primordial point gradually emerged into existence the myriads of worlds, visible and invisible celestial bodies. It was at the ray of this First mother, one in three, that “God,” according to
* The Elemental Vortices inaugurated by the Mind have not been improved by their modern transformation.
† I have been often taken to task for using expressions in Isis denoting belief in a personal and anthropomorphic God. This is not my idea. Kabalistically speaking, the “Architect” is the generic name for the Sephiroth, the Builders of the Universe, as the “Universal Mind” represents the collectivity of the Dhyan Chohanic Minds.
Plato, lighted a fire which we now call the sun,”* and which is not the cause of either light or heat, but merely the focus, or, as we might say, the lens, by which the rays of the primordial light become materialised, are concentrate upon our Solar System, and produce all the correlations of forces.”
This is the Ether, as just explained in the views of Metcalfe, repeated by Dr. Richardson, save the submission of the former to some details of the modern undulatory theory. We do not say that we deny the theory, but assert only that it needs completion and re-arrangement. But the Occultists are by no means the only heretics in this respect; for Mr. Robert Hunt, F.R.S., remarks, in his Researches on Light in its Chemical Relations, that: —
. . . . “the undulatory theory does not account for the results of his experiments. Sir David Brewster, in his Treatise on Optics, showing ‘that the colours of vegetable life arise . . . . from a specific attraction which the particles of these bodies exercise over the differently-coloured rays of light,’ and that ‘it is by the light of the sun that the coloured juices of plants are elaborated, that the colours of bodies are changed, etc. . . . .’ remarks that it is not easy to allow ‘that such effects can be produced by the mere vibration of an ethereal medium.’ And he is forced, he says, ‘by this class of facts, to reason as if light was material (?).’ Professor Josiah P. Cooke, of Harvard University, says that he ‘cannot agree . . . . with those who regard the wave-theory of light as an established principle of science.’† Herschell’s doctrine, that the intensity of light, in effect of each undulation, ‘is inversely as the square of the distance from the luminous body,’ if correct, damages a good deal, if it does not kill the undulatory theory. That he is right, was proved repeatedly by experiments with photometers; and though it begins to be much doubted, the undulatory theory is still alive.” (“Isis Unveiled.”)
To this remark of Sir W. Brewster — “forced to reason as if light was material” — there is a good deal to reply. Light, in one sense, is certainly as material as electricity itself is. And if electricity is not material, if it is only “a mode of motion,” how is it that it can be stored up in Faure’s accumulators? Helmholtz says that electricity must be as atomic as matter; and Mr. W. Crookes, F.R.S., supported the view in his address to the Chemical Section of the British Association, of which he was President (at Birmingham, 1886). This is what Helmholtz says (in his Faraday Lectures, 1881): —
“If we accept the hypothesis that the elementary substances are composed of atoms, we cannot avoid concluding that electricity also, positive as well as negative, is divided into definite elementary portions, which behave like atoms of electricity.”
Here we have to repeat that which was already said in Section IX: there is but one science that can henceforth direct modern research into the one path which will lead to the discovery of the whole, hitherto
† Modern Chemistry.
occult, truth, and it is the youngest of all — chemistry, as it now stands reformed. There is no other, not excluding astronomy, that can so unerringly guide scientific intuition, as chemistry can. Two proofs of it are to be found in the world of Science — two great chemists, each among the greatest in his own country, and these are Mr. Crookes and the late Professor Butlerof: one, a thorough believer in abnormal phenomena; the other, as fervid a Spiritualist as he was great in natural Sciences. It becomes evident that while pondering over the ultimate divisibility of matter, and in the hitherto fruitless chase after the element of negative atomic weight, the scientifically trained mind of the chemist must feel irresistibly drawn towards those ever-shrouded worlds, to the mysterious beyond, whose measureless depths seem to close against the approach of the too materialistic hand that would fain draw aside its veil. “It is the unknown and the ever unknowable,” warns the Monist-Agnostic. Not so; answers the persevering chemist: — “We are on the track and are not daunted, and fain would we enter the mysterious region which ignorance tickets unknown.”*
A few lines at the very close of his lecture on the Genesis of the Elements — two or three sentences — showed the eminent Scientist to be on the royal road to the greatest discoveries. He has been overshadowing for some time “the original protyle,” and came to the conclusion that “he who grasps the Key will be permitted to unlock some of the deepest mysteries of creation.” The protyle, as that great chemist explains: —
“. . . is a word analogous to protoplasm, to express the idea of the original primal matter existing before the evolution of the chemical elements. The word I have ventured to use for this purpose is compounded of [[pro]] (earlier than) and [[hyle]] (the stuff of which things are made). The word is scarcely a new coinage, for 600 years ago Roger Bacon wrote in his Arte Chymiae, “The elements are made out of [[hyle]] and every element is converted into the nature of another element.”
The Knowledge of Roger Bacon did not come to this wonderful old magician† by inspiration, but because he studied ancient works on
* Mr. Crookes’ “Presidential Address” at Birmingham. “There is but one unknown — the ultimate substratum of Spirit (Space). That which is not the Absolute and the One is, in virtue of that very differentiation, however far removed from the physical senses, always accessible to the spiritual human mind, which is a coruscation of the undifferentiable Integral.” — (Practical Lessons on the Occult.)
† Thus, what the writer of the present work said ten years ago in “Isis Unveiled” (Vol. I.) was prophetic, it seems. These are the words: “Many of these mystics, by following what they were taught by some treatises, secretly preserved from one generation to another, achieved discoveries which would not be despised even in our modern days of exact sciences. Roger Bacon, the friar, was laughed at as a quack, and is now generally numbered among ‘pretenders’ to magic art; but his discoveries were nevertheless accepted, and are now used by those who ridicule him the most. Roger Bacon belonged by right, if not by fact, to that Brotherhood which includes all those who [[Footnote continued on next page]]
magic and alchemy, having a key to the real meaning of words. But see what Mr. Crookes says of protyle, next neighbour to the unconscious Mulaprakriti of the Occultists: —
. . . . . “Let us start at the moment when the first element came into existence. Before this time, matter, as we know it, was not. It is equally impossible to conceive of matter without energy, as of energy without matter; from one point of view both are convertible terms. Before the birth of atoms, all those forms of energy, which become evident when matter acts upon matter, could not have existed* — they were locked up in the protyle as latent potentialities only. Coincident with the creation of atoms, all those attributes and properties, which form the means of discriminating one chemical element from another, start into existence fully endowed with energy.” (Presidential Address, p. 16.)
With every respect due to the great knowledge of the lecturer, the Occultist would put it otherwise. They would say that no atom is ever “created,” for the atoms are eternal within the bosom of the One Atom, — “the atom of atoms” — viewed during Manvantara as the Jagad-Yoni the material causative womb of the world. Pradhana (unmodified matter), that which is the first form of Prakriti, or material visible, as well as invisible nature, and Purusha, spirit, are eternally one; and they are Nirupadhi, (without adventitious qualities or attributes) only during Pralaya, and when beyond any of the planes of consciousness of existence. The atom, as known to modern science, is inseparable from Purusha, which is spirit, but is now called “Energy” in Science. The protyle atom has not been comminuted or subtilized: it has simply passed into that plane, which is no plane, but the eternal state of everything beyond the planes of illusion. Both Purusha and Pradhana are immutable and unconsumable, or Aparinamin and Avyaya, in eternity; and both during the Mayavic periods may be referred to as Vyaya and Parinamin, or that which can expand, pass away and disappear, and is “modifiable.” In this sense Purusha, must of course, be held distinct in our conceptions from Parabrahmam. Nevertheless that, which is called “energy” or “force” in Science and has been explained as a dual Force by Metcalfe, is never, in fact, and cannot be energy alone; for it is the substance of the world, its soul, the all-permeant “Sarvaga,” in conjunction with Kala “time.” The three are the trinity in one, during Manvantara, the all-potential Unity, which acts on the plane of illusion (Maya) as three distinct things. In Orphic
[[Footnote continued from previous page]] study the occult sciences. Living in the thirteenth century, almost a contemporary, therefore, of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, his discoveries — such as gunpowder and optical glasses, and his mechanical achievements — were considered by everyone as so many miracles. He was accused of having made a compact with the Evil One.”
* Just so; “those forms of energy . . . which become evident . . .” in the laboratory of the chemist and physicist; but there are other forms of energy wedded to other forms of matter, — which are supersensuous, yet known to the adepts.
philosophy in Greece they were called Phanes, Chaos, and Chronos — the triad of the Occult philosophers of that period.
But see how closely Mr. Crookes brushes by the “Unknowable,” and what “potentialities” there are for the acceptance of Occult truths in his discoveries. He continues, speaking of the evolution of atoms: —
“. . . . Let us pause at the end of the first complete vibration and examine the result. We have already found the elements of water, ammonia, carbonic acid, the atmosphere, plant and animal life, phosphorus for the brain, salt for the seas, clay for the solid earth . . . phosphates and silicates sufficient for a world and inhabitants not so very different from what we enjoy at the present day. True the human inhabitants would have to live in a state of more than Arcadian simplicity, and the absence of calcic phosphate would be awkward as far as the bone is concerned* . . . At the lower end of our curve . . . we see a great hiatus . . . This oasis, and the blanks which precede and follow it, may be referred with much probability to the particular way in which our Earth developed into a member of our solar system. If this be so, it may be that on our Earth only these blanks occur, and not generally throughout the universe.”
This justifies several assertions in the Occult works.
Firstly, “that neither stars nor the sun can be said to be constituted of those terrestrial elements with which the chemist is familiar, though they are all present in the sun’s outward robes — and a host more of elements so far unknown to science.”
Secondly, that our globe has its own special laboratory on the far-away outskirts of its atmosphere, crossing which, every atom and molecule change and differentiate from their primordial nature.
And Thirdly, that though no element present on our earth could ever be possibly found wanting in the sun, there are many others which have either not reached, or not as yet been discovered on, our globe. “Some may be missing in certain stars and heavenly bodies in the process of formation; or, though present in them, these elements, on account of their present state, may not respond as yet to the usual scientific tests.”† Mr. Crookes speaks of an element of still lower atomic weight than hydrogen, an element purely hypothetical as far as our earth is concerned . . . though existing in abundance in the chromosphere of the Sun — the helium. Occult Science adds that not one of the elements regarded by chemistry as such really deserves the name.
Again we find Mr. Crookes speaking with approbation of “Dr. Carnelly’s weighty argument in favour of the compound nature of the so-called elements, from their analogy to the compound radicles! ” Hitherto,
* It is just the existence of such worlds in other planes of consciousness that is claimed by the Occultist. The secret science teaches that the primitive race was boneless. (See Book II.); and that there are (to us) invisible worlds, peopled as our own, besides the populations of Dhyan Chohans.
† “Five Years of Theosophy,” p. 258 et seq.
alchemy alone succeeded within the historical periods, and in the so-called civilized countries, in obtaining a real element, or a particle of homogeneous matter, the Mysterium Magnum of Paracelsus. But then it was before Lord Bacon’s day.*
“. . . Let us now turn to the upper portion of the scheme. With hydrogen of atomic weight = 1, there is little room for other elements, save, perhaps, for hypothetical Helium. But what if we get ‘through the looking-glass,’ and cross the zero line in search of new principles — what shall we find on the other side of zero? Dr. Carnelly asks for an element of negative atomic weight; here is ample room and verge enough for a shadow series of such unsubstantialities. Helmholtz says that electricity is probably as atomic as matter; is electricity one of the negative elements, and the luminiferous ether another? Matter, as we now know it, does not here exist; the forms of energy which are apparent in the motions of matter are as yet only latent possibilities. A substance of negative weight is not inconceivable.† But can we form a clear conception of a body which combines with other bodies in proportions expressible by negative qualities?”‡
“A genesis of the elements such as is here sketched out would not be confined to our little solar system, but would probably follow the same general sequence of events in every centre of energy now visible as a star.”
“Before the birth of atoms to gravitate towards one another, no pressure could be exercised; but at the outskirts of the fire-mist sphere, within which all is protyle — at the shell on which the tremendous forces involved in the birth of a chemical element exert full sway — the fierce heat would be accompanied by gravitation sufficient to keep the newly-born elements from flying off into space. As temperature increases, expansion and molecular motion increase, molecules tend to fly asunder, and their chemical affinities become deadened; but the enormous pressure of the gravitation of the mass of atomic matter, outside what I may for brevity call the birth-shell, would counteract the action of heat.”
“Beyond the birth-shell would be a space in which no chemical action could take place, owing to the temperature there being above what is called the dissociation-point for compounds. In this space the lion and the lamb would lie down together; phosphorus and oxygen would mix without union; hydrogen and chlorine would show no tendency to closer bonds; and even fluorine, that
* Says Mr. Crookes in the same address: “The first riddle which we encounter in chemistry is: ‘What are the elements?’ Of the attempts hitherto made to define or explain an element, none satisfy the demands of the human intellect. The text books tell us that an element is ‘a body which has not been decomposed;’ that it is ‘a something to which we can add, but from which we can take nothing,’ or ‘a body which increases in weight with every chemical change.’ Such definitions are doubly unsatisfactory: they are provisional, and may cease to-morrow to be applicable in any given case. They take their stand, not on any attribute of the things to be defined, but on the limitations of human power: they are confessions of intellectual impotence.”
† And the lecturer quotes Sir George Airy, who says (in Faraday’s Life and Letters Vol. II., p. 354), “I can easily conceive that there are plenty of bodies about us not subject to this intermutual action, and therefore not subject to the law of gravitation.”
‡ The Vedantic philosophy conceives of such; but then it is not physics, but metaphysics, called by Mr. Tyndall “poetry” and “fiction.”
energetic gas which chemists have only isolated within the last month or two, would float about free and uncombined.”
“Outside this space of free atomic matter would be another shell, in which the formed chemical elements would have cooled down to the combination point, and the sequence of events so graphically described by Mr. Mattieu Williams in “The Fuel of the Sun” would now take place, culminating in the solid earth and the commencement of geological time” (p. 19).
This is, in a strictly scientific, but beautiful language, the description of the evolution of the differentiated Universe in the secret teachings. The learned gentleman closes his address in words, every sentence of which is like a flash of light from beyond the dark veil of materiality, hitherto thrown upon the exact sciences, and a step forward towards the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Occult. (Vide § XV., “Gods, Monads, and Atoms.”) Thus he says: —
“We have glanced at the difficulty of defining an element; we have noticed, too, the revolt of many leading physicists and chemists against the ordinary acceptation of the term element; we have weighed the improbability of their eternal existence,* or their origination by chance. As a remaining alternative, we have suggested their origin by a process of evolution like that of the heavenly bodies according to Laplace, and the plants and animals of our globe according to Lamarck, Darwin, and Wallace.† In the general array of the elements, as known to us, we have seen a striking approximation to that of the organic world.‡ In lack of direct evidence of the decomposition of any element, we have sought and found indirect evidence . . . . We have next glanced at the view of the genesis of the elements; and lastly we have reviewed a scheme of their origin suggested by Professor Reynold’s method of illustrating the periodic classification§ . . . Summing up all the above considerations we cannot,
* In the form they are now, we conceive?
† And to Kapila and Manu — especially and originally.
‡ Here is a scientific corroboration of the eternal law of correspondences and analogy.
§ This method of illustrating the periodic law in the classification of elements is, in the words of Mr. Crookes, proposed by Professor Emerson Reynolds, of Dublin University, who . . . . “points out that in each period, the general properties of the elements vary from one to another, with approximate regularity until we reach the seventh member, which is in more or less striking contrast with the first element of the same period, as well as with the first of the next. Thus chlorine, the seventh member of Mendeleef’s third period, contrasts sharply with both sodium, the first member of the same series, and with potassium, the first member of the next series; whilst on the other hand, sodium and potassium are closely analogous. The six elements, whose atomic weights intervene between sodium and potassium, vary in properties, step by step, until chlorine, the contrast to sodium, is reached. But from chlorine to potassium, the analogue of sodium, there is a change in properties per saltum. . . . . If we thus recognise a contrast in properties — more or less decided — between the first and the last members of each series, we can scarcely help admitting the existence of a point of mean variation within each system. In general the fourth element of each series possesses the property we might expect a transition-element to exhibit. . . . . Thus for the purpose of graphic translation, Professor Reynolds considers that the fourth member of a period — silicon, for example — may be placed at the apex of a symmetrical [[Footnote continued on next page]]
indeed, venture to assert positively that our so-called elements have been evolved from one primordial matter; but we may contend that the balance of evidence, I think, fairly weighs in favour of this speculation.”
Thus inductive Science, in its Branches of Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry, while advancing timidly towards the conquest of Nature’s secrets in her final effects on our terrestrial plane, recedes to the days of Anaxagoras and the Chaldees in its discoveries of (a) the origin of our phenomenal world, and (b) the modes of formation of the bodies that compose the universe. And having to turn back for their cosmogonical hypotheses to the beliefs of the earliest philosophers, and the systems of the latter — systems that were all based on the teachings of a universal secret doctrine with regard to the primeval matter with its properties, functions, and laws, — have we not the right to hope that the day is not far off when Science will show a better appreciation of the wisdom of the ancients than it has hitherto done?
No doubt Occult philosophy could learn a good deal from exact modern science; but the latter, on the other hand, might profit by ancient learning in more than one way, and chiefly in Cosmogony. For
[[Footnote continued from previous page]] curve, which shall represent for that particular period, the direction in which the properties of the series of elements vary with rising atomic weights.
Now, the writer humbly confesses complete ignorance of modern chemistry and its mysteries. But she is pretty well acquainted with the Occult doctrine with regard to correspondences of types and antitypes in nature, and perfect analogy as a fundamental law in Occultism. Hence she ventures a remark which will strike every Occultist, however it may be derided by orthodox Science. This method of illustrating the periodic law in the behaviour of elements, whether or not still a hypothesis in chemistry, is a law in Occult Sciences. Every well-read Occultist knows that the seventh and fourth members — whether in a septenary chain of worlds, the septenary hierarchy of angels, or in the constitution of man, animal, plant, or mineral atom — that the seventh and fourth members, we say, in the geometrically and mathematically uniform workings of the immutable laws of Nature, always play a distinct and specific part in the septenary system. From the stars twinkling high in heaven, to the sparks flying asunder from the rude fire built by the savage in his forest; from the hierarchies and the essential constitution of the Dhyan Chohans — organized for diviner apprehensions and a loftier range of perception than the greatest Western psychologist ever dreamed of, down to Nature’s classification of species among the humblest insects; finally from worlds to atoms, everything in the universe, from great to small, proceeds in its spiritual and physical evolution, cyclically and septennially, showing its seventh and fourth number (the latter the turning point) behaving in the same way as shown in that periodic law of atoms. Nature never proceeds per saltum. Therefore, when Mr. Crookes remarks to this that he does not “wish to infer that the gaps in Mendeleef’s table, and in this graphic representation of it (the diagram showing the evolution of atoms) necessarily mean that there are elements actually existing to fill up the gaps; these gaps may only mean that at the birth of the elements there was an easy potentiality of the formation of an element which would fit into the place” — an Occultist would respectfully remark to him that the latter hypothesis can only hold good, if the septenary arrangement of atoms is not interfered with. This is the one law, and an infallible method that must always lead to success, one who follows it.
instance, the mystical signification, alchemical and transcendental, of the many imponderable substances that fill interplanetary space, and which, interpenetrating each, are the direct cause, at the lower end, of the production of natural phenomena manifesting through vibration (so-called). The knowledge of the real (not the hypothetical) nature of Ether, or rather of the Akasa, and other mysteries, in short, can alone lead to the knowledge of Forces. It is that substance against which the materialistic school of the physicists rebels with such fury, especially in France,* and which exact Science has to advocate notwithstanding. They cannot make away with it without incurring the risk, like a modern Samson, of pulling down the pillars of the Temple of Science, and getting buried under its roof.
The theories built upon the rejection of Force outside and independent of Matter pure and simple, have been all shown fallacious. They do not, and cannot, cover the ground, and many of the scientific data are thus proved unscientific. “Ether produced Sound” is said in the Puranas, and the statement is laughed at. It is the vibrations in the air, we are corrected. And what is air? Could it exist if there were no etheric medium in Space to buoy up its molecules? The case stands simply thus. Materialism cannot admit the existence of anything outside matter, because with the acceptance of an imponderable Force — the source and head of all the physical Forces — other intelligent Forces would have to be admitted virtually, and that would lead Science very far. For it would have to accept as a sequel the presence in Man of a still more spiritual power — entirely independent, for once, of any kind of matter physicists know anything about. Hence, apart from an hypothetical ether of Space and gross physical bodies, the whole Sidereal and unseen Space is, in the sight of the materialists, one boundless void in nature — blind, unintelligent, useless.
And now the next question is: What is that Cosmic Substance, and how far can one go to suspect its nature or to wrench from it its secrets, and thus feel justified in giving it a name? How far, especially, has modern Science gone in the direction of those secrets, and what it is doing to solve them. The latest hobby of Science, the “Nebular Theory,” may afford us some answer to this question. Let us then examine the credentials of the Nebular Theory.
* A group of electricians has just protested against the new theory of Clausius, the famous professor of the University of Bonn. The character of the protest is shown in the signature, which has “Jules Bourdin, in the name of the group of Electricians, which had the honour of being introduced to Professor Clausius in 1881, and whose war-cry (cri de ralliement) is A bas l’Ether” — down with ether, even; they want Universal Void, you see!