[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
THE END OF THE WORLD?
In November, Sir James Jeans, in a lecture before the Royal Institution, claims that the Moon is slowly spiraling toward the Earth and that in 36,000,000 years it will begin to threaten the Earth with destruction. When it gets within 20,000 miles it will break into pieces, some of which will fall into orbits of their own and form rings around the Earth like those of Saturn. Astronomers have already threatened our poor Earth with several methods of extinction — the freezing process, when the universe reaches thermodynamic equilibrium or 'heat-death'; the cremation method, when the Sun blows up as a nova or 'new star'; and other methods as well. And now it seems that our old friend the Moon will betray our confidence unless we can find some means of frightening it off when it comes too close! But perhaps the astronomers are a little premature in their croakings. It may be that the solar system is organized on a systematic plan which cannot easily be disrupted by accidental or chance causes. A little Theosophy would be useful to some of our scientists whose theories sometimes make our flesh creep!
But after all, Sir James Jeans is not to have it all his own way. That mysterious goddess 'Science' speaks with more than one voice, it seems, for here comes Professor H. N. Russell of Princeton University, no mean authority in astronomy, who tells us in his new book The Solar System and its Origin that owing to the retardation of the Earth's rotation, the Moon's distance is increasing. He quotes Dr. Jeffreys, who considers "that the Moon has been separate from the Earth ever since the early catastrophe that formed the planets"; that at its nearest it was about 8000 miles from the Earth; that it spirals away from the Earth about five feet in a century, but that it was, in all probability, never united with the Earth. From Dr. Russell's calculation, supported by that of other eminent mathematicians, it is difficult to understand how the Moon escaped breaking up before it got safely through the 20,000 mile danger zone mentioned by Dr. Jeans. Was it because the Earth and the Moon had not then solidified?
However this may be, it is curious to observe how little scientists really know about the Cosmos. Some are more ready to admit this than others. Dr. Russell is one who rightly claims that "the Solar System is most certainly not a product of chance," but also he says that no one can indicate how it originated in detail; all that it is possible to accept is: "that we may reasonably regard its birth as the merest accident in a far vaster process, — the shaping of the material Universe as we know it. What lay behind that shaping we do not know."
Why not dare to conceive that conscious creative Power lies behind the processes of 'Nature'?
Since the second experiment by the Kashmiri yogi, Kuda Bux, mentioned in our last issue, a most entertaining and instructive correspondence has been raging in The Listener (London) — instructive to students of Theosophy because it illustrates so bluntly the necessity mentioned by H. P. Blavatsky of demonstrating the existence of the astral and the like, before what she calls 'the quarrel' between physical science and the esoteric teachings can be healed. The difficulty that the regular scientists have in accepting any possibility of so-called occult laws in Nature, and above all, their profound hesitation in accepting the possibility that any human beings — adepts — know these laws and can make use of their knowledge, are plainly set forth in this correspondence.
The facts as described and admitted are undeniable; they are in harmony with similar exhibitions carefully reported from many parts of the world, and by thoroughly responsible people of European and American nationality; and 'fire-walking' has been done by white men who have all declared that they felt no heat or other inconvenience, and who were not even singed, much less blistered or burnt, even after walking on red-hot charcoal for ninety feet! But as the correspondence and other literature show, the most ridiculous and contradictory 'explanations' are offered to save the admission that there can be anything but jugglery in the fire-walking. One distinguished scientist entered on his investigation not in the scientific attitude of an observer and recorder of an alleged fact in Nature hitherto neglected, but, as he said, with the object of showing up what he claimed to be a fraud! The regular explanations — the supposed rubbing of the feet with salt or alum or other chemical preparations, the horny foot-soles, the 'coolness' of the fire, the thick layer of ashes, the hasty rush, and others — were put out of court by the precautions of the committee in charge. Failing to solve the problem by these suggestions, one prominent critic of high scientific attainments asserted that it was very simple, after all: the performer's feet were damp, and were naturally protected by the layer of vapor that immediately arose from the heat. Unfortunately for this brilliant idea, another equally competent observer made the point that the immunity from the least injury arose from the fact that Kuda Bux's feet were perfectly dry!
Evidently these learned gentlement had not taken the precaution of comparing notes before they made their final decisions! Anyway, the present position is that no one has given any satisfactory explanation, and that Kuda Bux promises to give another demonstration at a later date, when he will stand on the fire and will place a sheet on it that will not scorch. He also asks for volunteers among his critics or others to make two walks, "one with his approval, and the second without." This experiment has been tried before in India, and the unprepared walkers (some of them English) who had 'permission' of the yogi in charge were perfectly comfortable; the others did not go far! In a recent case reported in The Listener, the walkers were unharmed as long as the yogi kept up his concentration, but they had to get off the fire quickly when he warned them that it was no longer safe. The yogi did not walk on that occasion but remained outside the limits of the fire.
IS THE UNIVERSE FINITE?
Dr. Edwin P. Hubble of Mt. Wilson Observatory, in a recent lecture at Yale University, stated that the outposts of the universe have now been found to be 500 million light-years away — so far as measured. The imaginary sphere between the Earth and these outposts, marked by the faintest nebulae or stellar systems detectable, is the observable region of space. When the great 200-inch telescope being built for the California Institute of Technology, which is to be erected on Mount Palomar, San Diego County, is in action, these 'outposts' will be greatly surpassed and we shall see into enormously vaster spaces. Dr. Hubble calculates that about 100 million galaxies resembling the one to which our solar system belongs, the Milky Way, exist in the 'observable region,' and he says they are scattered in a fairly regular way — two million light-years apart on the average — though here and there more concentrated groups and clusters are found. The most interesting point he makes is that nothing whatever has been detected to indicate any frontier to creation, or even to find anything startlingly different. There is no sign of approach to a void, and in the far-off systems the spectroscope detects elements that are familiar on Earth.
IS THE UNIVERSE EXPANDING?
In spite of all the arguments in favor of this strange notion, it is not finally accepted. In fact, reasons are multiplying against such a possibility. Dr. Zwicky of the California Institute of Technology, in The Physical Review, shows that while the relativity theory partially explains the peculiarity in the light coming from the distant galaxies, which is called the 'red shift' and on which the expansion theory rests, it is not in accordance with observation in several important respects. Certain other theories, he says, meet all demands and may prove far better than the relativity theory. The installation of the great Palomar 200-inch telescope is likely to decide the problem. Dr. de Purucker discusses the expansion theory in his new work, The Esoteric Tradition, on pages 435-8, and suggests that the 'red shift' may be due to a variation in the velocity of light in cosmic space rather than to a supposed explosion in which the galaxies are all fleeing from our locality into some imaginary outer vacancy. Dr. Zwicky has criticized the expansion theory before, and has been partially answered by Sir Arthur Eddington, but he now brings new and stronger arguments.
The broad-minded Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, Dr. Matthews, is again startling the Fundamentalists. He told the Church Congress in October that:
Until quite recently almost the whole of Christendom would have given the same answer to the question whether there is a revelation of God, and, if so, where is it to be found? It would have replied with practical unanimity: There is a revelation of God and it is to be found in the Bible.
After pointing out that the supreme revelation is not wholly external to us, and that we could not recognise the 'Word made Flesh' unless the Word were within us — in short, the divinity of man — he concludes a most remarkable address, which we regret not having space to quote more fully, as follows:
God does not dictate from heaven a creed or articles of faith. He manifests Himself through the experience and personalities of His prophets and of His Son. The doctrines of the Church are formulas in which the revelation has been summed up, guarded and preserved. . . . The revelation is not the doctrine. It may be that more adequate expressions will hereafter be found for the spiritual heritage that they have been formed to express. . . . The Holy Spirit will guide us into new truth. And thus the true conception of revelation is not a dogmatic fetter upon freedom; it opens the road to a spiritual adventure which has no end in time, not only the adventure of bringing the world of affairs into subjection to Christ, but the intellectual adventure of understanding the full meaning of the God who showed Himself to us as man.
Allowing for the orthodox terminology used by the Dean and the quaint Western obsession that Jesus the Avatara was the only Avatara or 'Son' of 'God,' we may welcome this pronouncement as a marked step forward. The time is coming when the 'formulas,' the rigid doctrines and creeds, will be replaced by more and more true expressions of spiritual realities. Is it impossible that some now living will see the Church of England teaching Reincarnation and Karman and their implications in place of the vicarious atonement and salvation by faith doctrines, and the one-life illusion?