Theosophy – June 1897

THE WORLD OF SCIENCE: I — L. G.

INTRODUCTION

It is by no means either needful or expedient that Theosophy should confine itself to the publication of merely technical matter. To do so would practically limit its sphere of interest and usefulness to the membership of the Society; and as the fundamental and continuing purpose of the organization is the expansion of Theosophic information and teaching to the world at large, as yet ignorant or unheeding of the tenet of Universal Brotherhood, and the Destiny of Man, it has seemed wise to multiply the points of contact, and that endeavor be made to indicate how the forces behind the Theosophical movement work through other agencies as well as those of the declared organization, and thus avail themselves of all favorable means and opportunities to illustrate and forward the liberation and development of Mind and Soul. Furthermore it is of importance to the Society itself that its members keep themselves informed as to the currents and tendencies of thought on other than its own lines; whereby will be gained a keener and broader insight into general progress and a clearer view of the fresh standpoints that constitute at once milestones of attainment and new points of departure.

It is proposed, therefore, under some such caption as the above, to note and comment briefly in each issue on the current developments of scientific and other thought and discovery, and perhaps take occasion from time to time, to indicate how accurately these adapt themselves and fit into the scheme of Theosophic Evolution.

Our readers may profitably cooperate in this by sending newspaper or other clippings, or calling attention to publications containing recitals of fresh discoveries and developments.

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With all the acumen and power of concentrated thought — the enormous industry and persistence in the gathering of data — and the trained imagination and speculation in their interpretation — that have been devoted to the advance of Science, it is not yet accorded to that ever young and vigorous handmaiden of humanity to know the inner essence of things.

Science is essentially materialistic; not necessarily in purpose, but in method. It has perforce to study phenomena, and seeks to gain from them a knowledge of the general principles and laws underlying, controlling and correlating them. It accepts no teaching or statement that is not susceptible of verification by its own means and appliances; refuses aid from metaphysics; and denies all authority save its own. And rightfully so. As the universe is man's heritage, he must learn to know it, and the laws that regulate it. The planes of power and potency are many, and all cannot be studied at once. It is needful that the physical plane have its elucidation in a material age, since to neglect it is to postpone the open opportunity. To conquer a continent, the forests must be levelled and the prairie ploughed. To each man his day and his work; and it is incumbent upon him to set himself to the task at his hand, and within the scope of his ability to execute. Happy he who has the higher insight and can work on loftier planes with more searching implements. Let him likewise take care that his gift be not neglected, but in any case, disparagement or scorn of his more humbly endowed brother may not lie in his thought or word. Instrumentalities must always be of all grades. All are co-workers in humanity's common vineyard, and every useful endeavor tends to the common weal. The labor of one, if in the direction of breaking, mellowing, fertilizing, or preparing the ground for seed time and harvest, should command the respect and sympathy of all, as all shall be the gainers thereby.

Let, therefore, the microscopist, the botanist, the geologist, do their appointed work, and be not accounted myopic because their vision is limited. The chemist, the astronomer, and the physicist have likewise their tasks, and their duty is to fulfill them, and explore the hidden or distant realms of nature within the scope of their appliances.

The biologist, physiologist, archaeologist, psychologist, are all doing useful and necessary work, as well as the sincere students of Ethics, of Social Science, and of Theology, whether their endeavors turn toward one side or the other of the numerous questions causing controversy. In particular should those who devote themselves to humanitarian work, be it ideal or practical, whether for the temporal relief of individuals, or the amelioration of social and industrial conditions, have the benefit of a cordial sympathy and if need be, of active cooperation of word and hand in their endeavors.

Behind all these diversities of effort, tending toward the liberation of humanity from wearisome burdens and mental fetters, lie the beneficent forces of which they are but the outcome and exponents; and in the eternal conflict between the powers of light and darkness, harmony and discord, life and death, among the clamor of tongues and the jarring of selfish antagonisms, the "ear that hears" may, even now, detect the fine strain of melody that traverses it all, and is but the prelude to the more resounding and triumphant outburst with which the future is already thrilling.

It is the function of the Theosophical Society, by all means in its power, to further whatever makes for progress, and all unselfish effort is in this direction. The Theosophic teaching cannot be forced on people, and they must be led by personal sympathy and inducement to the acquisition of that knowledge of cosmic evolution and man's place in nature, of which Theosophy is the custodian, and without which the discordant and discouraging existing conditions are quite impossible of comprehension.

Let it be recognized, then, that all who are doing sincere and useful work, in the interest of humanity, are in fact Theosophists, and entitled to our encouragement and support.

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Among all those who are laboring in the scientific field, it might be supposed that the students of Psychology should be more nearly in touch with Theosophy than others. Their task is to investigate the facts of consciousness, and in consciousness are concealed at once the essence of what is and the history of creation; phenomena the most obvious, and mysteries the most profound. In that field lie perception, sensation, emotion, thought, feeling, springs of action the most potent, and forces that form the individual and create and destroy races.

But, lacking the key to the labyrinth, the investigators wander. Lost in its complexity though persistent in seeking the way out; vibrating between the two extremes of a crass "materiality" on the one hand, that denies the existence of anything save matter in infinite diversity of form and manifestation, and the vapory "spirituality" that recognizes no being and declares existence dependent merely on subconscious imaginings; weary of the fruitless search for some limiting process or law, which naturally could not be found, since in fact it does not exist; the later Psychology steers between the two, and seeks to establish itself on some safe middle ground by emulating the laboratory methods of the chemist and physicist, and formulating its work under diverse names. Witness the formidable list: Ethnology, Philology, Law, Sociology, History, Archaeology, Epistomology; Æsthetics, Pedagogics, Anatomy, Zoology, Physiology, Psychiatry, Pathology, Telepathy. It is evident the list could be indefinitely extended so long as words held out or could be invented. It is an ancient resource of science, when at a loss to know the nature of things, to give them names, and thus acquire a seeming familiarity with them, by which means learned addresses may be made and prolonged discussions conducted. But with better knowledge comes again the inevitable, because fundamental, reduction of complexity to simplicity, and the common origin of manifestations gains in certainty and obviousness. So will it be with Psychology when the light shall break upon it. Meanwhile it refuses to go behind the returns of its own material investigations and the phenomenal facts that present themselves for inquiry. Two sides to these facts are recognized — the outer and the inner, the real essence of which is neither known nor studied. The relations between the two, merely, are the subject of inquiry, and which perchance is the cause of the other. At present the droll result of the most advanced thought on the subject is, that we are pleased because we laugh and are grieved because our tears flow. Also that the old notion of five senses is obsolete — we have likewise the "hot and cold" sense, the "pain and pleasure" sense, and the "pressure" sense, the "hunger and thirst" sense, "love and anger" sense. Senses of "time" and "distance," etc., do not yet seem to be included, although they have apparently been developed. It is also certain that there are special sets of nerves for the conveyance of sensations of cold and heat, and it is now under investigation if we have a double set in addition for pain and pleasure. This seems almost childish trifling, but is put forth by earnest and determined men, and merely proves what we know already, that in the absence of a rudder the best-equipped and best-manned ship must of necessity make a long and devious passage to its port.

SPIRIT AND MATTER

Spirit is the great life on which matter rests, as does the rocky world on the free and fluid ether; whenever we can break our limitations we find ourselves on that marvellous shore where Wordsworth once saw the gleam of the gold. — Through the Gates of Gold.

Theosophy

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