The Theosophical Forum – February 1936

THE RISING TIDE OF THEOSOPHY — conducted by C. J. Ryan

"Consider the Heavens" (1)

Professor Moulton, the well-known astronomer of the University of Chicago and author of important standard works on astronomy and mathematics, has struck an entirely new note in his latest book. Consider the Heavens appears at the first glance to be nothing more than another guide to the stars similar to many which have been written of late by leading astronomers, but it is far more than this. While it gives an up-to-date though not too technical outline of the main facts and the historical sequences, and brilliantly discusses the most modern hypotheses, what gives it a unique distinction is the mental attitude of the author, his cultural background. We all know how bitterly Darwin regretted his alienation from poetry and the arts, owing to intense concentration on his own limited field. He said that he had practically become "a machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts"; he had atrophied his higher faculties in large measure. Dr. Moulton has not limited his outlook in that way and so it is more comprehensive and generous. He is not cramped by technicalities and, above all, he is not carried away by arguments based on assumptions. For instance, speaking of recent evidence that light has apparently been observed to travel across a distant nebula far more rapidly than the Einstein supposed limit, he says with dry humor:

We know, of course, that now one of the assumptions of relativity is that no velocity greater than that of light is possible, but it would be unscientific in a domain where so much is assumption to permit this fact to curtail our freedom.

While a master in so-called cold mathematics, Dr. Moulton is keenly alive to the 'warm glow' of art, music, and poetry, and is an ardent lover of Nature. All this cultural background has prepared him to extend legitimate scientific speculations to far wider horizons than those of less comprehensive and intuitive minds. Yes, intuitive; for here is a profound thinker who has discovered for himself, so it seems from this book, some of the fundamental conceptions of the Ancient Wisdom, Theosophy, facts about the cosmos and the great Intelligences behind appearances, which are of vital importance for the understanding of universal brotherhood and evolution. A Theosophical writer pointed out some years ago that a mental background of poetry, history, and the like, was almost a necessity for deep study of Theosophy, because it opened the heart and permitted the play of the intuitive faculty without which only an elementary understanding is possible. When scientists as a whole move in the direction indicated by our author and develop the other side of the nature it will be easy for them to grasp Theosophy and make their own work a thousand times more effective and beneficial to mankind.

While Dr. Moulton is a typical scientist in the highest sense and is naturally in sympathy with the general scientific attitude of concentration on the visible and the inductions therefrom, yet many passages in his book approach so closely to the Esoteric Philosophy that they might have been taken from Theosophical literature. However strongly his scientific training may try to keep his mind in mechanistic grooves, he is constantly climbing out of them and letting his intuition speak. He is a striking example of the highest scientific minds who are veering toward occult thought today.

In many places Dr. Moulton lifts his readers high above the ordinary scientific precedents and gives free rein to his 'scientific intuition,' showing, as we think, a courage and imagination greater than that of Jeans or even Planck in his treatment of the much-disputed problems of modern astro-physics. The general reader of scientific books and magazine articles is frequently puzzled by bald statements of high authorities that this or that doctrine is the teaching of 'Science,' while another equally responsible scientist either ignores them or calmly offers a contradictory doctrine in the name of 'Science'! We could give a dozen cases offhand, such as the nature of the Earth's core, the ancestry of man, natural selection, the 'canals' of Mars, the origin and future of the moon, or 'the expansion of the universe.' Dr. Moulton treats of various disputed questions without dogmatism and with such independence that the reader will surely wish that more space had been given to them.

Dr. Moulton doubts the validity of the so-called Expansion of the Universe, regarding it as more probable that the universe is infinite, and that if any expansion is going on it is only a local and temporary phenomenon. If asked how the 'red shift' of the lines in the spectrum of the galaxies is to be explained unless the expansion is a universal process, he replies that the displacements are only assumed to be due to the velocities of recession, and that there are other reasonable explanations. He mentions other known displacements of spectral lines whose cause is not even guessed, and rightly declares that we are not justified in assuming that light itself suffers no changes in its journey through the depths of space and that the shift toward the red end of the spectrum is an illusion, a Doppler effect. He strongly supports the suggestion that the photons ('light-packets') coming from great distances have 'wasted away' a little during the journey, and that this fully explains the red shift. If so, and if Planck's 'constant h' is really a constant as generally believed, the wave-frequencies of light would steadily increase in length with the increase of distance, as observation of the red shift shows, and the so-called expansion or explosion theory can be safely discarded. Dr. Zwicky of Mount Wilson Observatory has lately declared that there is more than one possible explanation of the red shift and that the expansion hypothesis has fatal defects.

Dr. Moulton objects to the expansion idea on another ground. It brings in the impossible notion that the entire cosmos, the all-inclusive order of Nature — not merely the visible galaxies and super-galaxies — is a comparatively recent creation. In fact, it would be far newer than the age of the majority of the stars — an absurdity. The reader must study his brilliant argument about so-called primordial creation for himself as it cannot even be summarized here. Dr. Moulton sees that there can never have been a primordial creation, but that the universe is infinite in every way, both in time and space, although it may have suffered innumerable periodic or cyclic changes. He denies that the weird hypothesis of an expansion or explosion from "an original cosmic atom" has been established or even shown to be probable.

The Ancient Wisdom teaches a theory of rhythmic expansion and contraction in the cosmos, but of a different kind from the modern one. It is a periodic manifestation from the invisible to the visible, 'from within without,' manvantara and pralaya, a universal process which is reflected by analogy from the greatest to the smallest. This is a fundamental in all the world philosophies, and the modern notion is a distorted and materialized travesty. Dr. Moulton's intuition has rendered him very good service in this matter.

Analogy and cyclic repetition — purely Theosophical tenets of prime importance — are strongly insisted upon by him as keys to Nature's secrets, and he gives much attention to them in relation to the orderliness of the universe. Students of Theosophy are familiar with the concept of an orderly universe as opposed to a helter-skelter one. H. P. Blavatsky made this a first essential in understanding the teaching of Karman: cause and effect, not only in the physical world but in all planes of being, mental and spiritual. It is the basis of the need for reincarnation. It is encouraging to find Dr. Moulton emphasizing the orderliness of the universe.

In regard to Analogy we find him again in perfect harmony with some of the most profound teachings of Theosophy. In fact, he is using almost the words used in some of Dr. de Purucker's recent lectures. Starting from the varied suns and nebulae of our own galaxy, he leads us to the enormous star-clouds which in their aggregation compose the Milky Way (our native home-galaxy of billions of stars, etc.), and then onward to the neighbor galaxies, and ultimately to the farthest we can see, now measured to be five hundred million light-years away! But the analogy is more complete; the distant galaxies are grouped in clusters so as to form super-galaxies, fifty of which are now known. And where is this analogy to stop? He denies that it ever stops, or can stop in an infinite universe. Hard as it is for us to follow the concept of higher and greater super-galaxies to the 'endless end,' any finite concept is still more unthinkable.

But that is not all; Dr. Moulton turns his attention toward the infinitely small, and works downward from the familiar earth to the molecule, the atom and the electron. Why should the electron or the proton be the minutest particle of matter any more than the galaxy is the greatest? He demands sub-electrons of the first order composed of still lesser particles, and so on ad infinitum. Perhaps if he understood the Theosophical teaching about the laya centers when 'matter' changes its nature, he would modify his view about the infinite series of diminishing physical particles. But his argument in favor of the universality of analogy and cycles in Nature is admirable so far as it goes.

This harmonious agreement with the Ancient Wisdom is not all. There is a still more surprising claim, and one which we do not recollect having been made by any Western philosopher till now. The steady increase in size of the material building-blocks of the universe, from the electron to the inconceivably vast super-galaxies, is associated in Theosophy with a hierarchical arrangement of conscious beings. What does Dr. Moulton think? He dares to suggest that the sub-electrons smaller than the electron may well be "molecules of conscious being that live through a million generations in what is to us a second of time," and that the enormous super-galaxies "may similarly be the molecules of conscious beings whose life-cycles consume unimaginable intervals of time"! (italics ours). In fact, that all is composed of conscious hierarchies of beings, one of the simplest and most beautiful facts in Nature, the foundation of the reality of universal brotherhood. As the Lord Buddha said:

To the eye of flesh, plants and trees appear to be gross matter. But to the eye of a Buddha they are composed of minute spiritual particles. . . . Grass, trees, countries, the earth itself, all these shall wholly enter into enlightenment.

Dr. Moulton brings forward many other views in harmony with Theosophy which we unfortunately have no room to mention, but a word must be said about the 'running down' of the universe to final absolute death, entropy, with no probability of its ever 'winding up,' the notion so strongly advocated by Jeans and many other physicists. Dr. Moulton will have none of it. The discovery of the tremendous forces released by the disintegration of the radium atom makes it extremely probable that still greater energies are stored in the subatomic or sub-electronic levels, and are only awaiting appropriate means of release. Carried farther still, it would seem that we might approach an infinite source of energy, and that the idea of a running-down universe is nothing but a bogy. If there is no need to assume an end of all things, there is no necessity to imagine a beginning, or a 'Creator' separate from his 'Creation.' Dr. Moulton handles this logical argument with the same skill that he uses in his other criticisms of the numerous unproved assumptions in astro-physics now current, which are too readily supposed by the lay public to be established facts.

We strongly recommend students of Theosophy to read this remarkable book, for it not only contains a fascinatingly interesting account of the 'stars in their courses' suitable for the non-technical reader, but it provides a wealth of scientific argument in favor of the Esoteric Wisdom. Naturally, we cannot expect Dr. Moulton to sympathize in all points with the teachings of Theosophy, and we regret being unable here to touch on some of his differences. It is sufficient to say that we believe a still deeper call upon his intuition would lead to the discovery that there are an infinitude of planes of being and consciousness beyond or, more properly, within the physical plane to which our everyday perception is confined through the limitations of our senses. If the galaxies and super-galaxies extend in gradation of immensity beyond conception, so do the hierarchies of beings, and also planes of consciousness and corresponding grades of subtil 'matter' up to Nirvana and beyond. "In my Father's house are many mansions." The nature of the universe is far more mysterious than science suspects, and the physical worlds are only the visible part of the training-ground for immortal spirits.


1. Consider the Heavens, by Forest Ray Moulton. Doubleday, Doran & Co. New York. 332 pp. (return to text)

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