"Uncompromising physico-materialism is being driven to its last entrenchments. It sees its own ideal . . . vanishing like a mist before the light of awkward fact, and the daily discoveries made in the domain of invisible and intangible matter, whose veil is being more and more rent with every such new discovery." — H. P. Blavatsky in 1883
Involution and Evolution of Worlds
Some of the conclusions of modern physics have always seemed strange to Theosophists, who have felt that they would not stand against the pressure of new scientific researches. One of these conclusions is that while the universe had a beginning and will have an end, there is no reason to expect the revival of it or of a successor of like nature. Even Sir Arthur Eddington seems satisfied with this belief. No explanation is offered for the unique appearance of a universe which was never preceded by another of its kind and which will never be followed by a similar one. Does this strange conjecture betray a lingering theological bias derived from the old literal interpretation of the esoteric teachings of the book of Genesis, or is it merely the result of materialistic thinking? Physicists have offered us a rather dismal picture, mathematically endorsed, of the running down of the physical universe to a condition of 'heat-death' when nothing more will happen, but they do not give a solution of the problem of the counterpart, i. e., the winding up at the beginning of activity. Where did the 'heat-life' come from, and how, if we may coin the word? Did 'God' create it out of nothing? Few scientists care to speculate about such troublesome points as beginnings or perhaps endings, leaving them to theology and 'faith.'
Of late, however, a few daring spirits, including Eddington, have begun to speculate in a new way on the nature of things and are more than suspecting that the physical universe is not the whole of 'the' universe, but only one aspect of a greater whole. This promises to bring about drastic revision of many accepted theories. For instance Eddington, in common with other great scientists, is now looking to consciousness as the basis of all things — a purely Theosophical concept highly unpalatable in the West when H. P. Blavatsky brought it from the Orient. He says:
The symbolic nature of the entities of physics is generally recognised; and the scheme of physics is now formulated in such a way as to make it almost self-evident that it is a partial aspect of something wider. . . .
Recognising that the physical world is entirely abstract and without "actuality" apart from its linkings to consciousness, we restore consciousness to the fundamental position instead of representing it as an inessential complication occasionally found in the midst of inorganic nature at a late stage of evolutionary history. — Nature of the Physical World, pp. 331-2
How could the 'heat-death' affect the fundamental of the universe — consciousness!
According to the Ancient Wisdom of the East, however, while the manifested universe, available to our senses and our instruments, had a beginning and will undoubtedly come to an end, this end will only be a temporary condition during which its energies withdraw to other planes of activity until the time comes for another manifestation on the physical plane. Involution of forces, 'matter,' consciousness, etc., are as inevitable and periodic as evolution of the same. That is the sane, philosophic, and encouraging prospect discovered by the great minds of antiquity and brought to the attention of the Western world by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, which is at last being studied by leading scientists in the West. Furthermore, she shows that each succeeding evolutionary manifestation is higher than the last, and the distressing prospect feared by some scientists that such a world or universe would be a mere repetition of the preceding one in dreary monotony, is unwarranted. Nature preserves her memories, and profits by them, just as man does in his successive incarnations, though his limited brain may not be aware of former experiences. Something permanent within him is and does.
The article by the distinguished Dutch astronomer, Dr. H. Groot, published in this number of The Theosophical Forum, treats of this subject, giving a valuable illustration of the process of involution and evolution so far as it can be followed on the physical plane as shown by the new discoveries in the 'Crab' Nebula in the constellation Taurus. A few years ago, our Theosophical contemporary Lucijer de Lichtbrenger (Holland) published some remarks by Dr. Groot on the running down of the universe and the possibility that such a process would absolutely forbid any cycles of manifestation and rest. Is the 'heat-death' or entropy fatal to any revival of a 'dead' universe? Does it destroy the possibility of an oscillating cycle, so to speak, between the extremes of manifestation and inactivity? In his The Breath of the Universe, Dr. Groot says that:
The primary laws of nature, i.e., the laws which order the particles which constitute the universe, answer that such a cycle is not an impossibility. While the law of entropy [heat-death] may seem to say that a cycle of that kind will not be realized because the probability is too small, we have calculated the possibilities of the occurrence of a succession of such cycles and find therefrom an extremely small figure in their favor but we do not find zero. The possibility does exist, and if it exists at all that means certainty for our proposition, for while the possibility may be small Eternity is endless.
But one point must be kept in view. In an ever-expanding universe a cycle is quite out of the question. Only in an oscillating universe does the chance of a cycle exist. . . If the expansion, however, does not continue but is always followed by a contraction then also entropy will not continue to increase, because when matter is contracting entropy diminishes. We cannot say how much farther it will go. With every new breath perhaps a greater diminution of entropy would follow till a certain time . . . matter would be formed again, once more to condense into nebulae, to stars, and to galactic systems.
. . . We also find a beginning and an end of the universe, but relative this time, for behind every end a new beginning dawns, and every beginning is preceded by an end. Our metaphysical need for infinity is satisfied.
The Oldest Man
The famous 'Java Man' (Pithecanthropus), who divided the honors of the greatest antiquity with the 'Peking Man' and the 'Piltdown Man' in England, was recently degraded by Dr. Eugene Dubois, his discoverer, to the rank of the apes, but, by a turn of fortune's wheel, he has been allowed to resume his dignity as a man! A new specimen has been discovered in the bed of the Solo River, Java, and Dr. von Koenigswald, research associate of the Carnegie Institution, whose expedition to Java was mentioned in our January number, announces that while it possesses one trifling apelike feature it is not a "missing link" in any way but is "definitely proved to be human." Dr. Dubois's original specimen, found in 1890, was extremely imperfect and lacked important parts which the new one contains. Moreover, the teeth which were found associated with his Pithecanthropus have turned out to have belonged to an extinct species of orang-utan, and the thigh bone is not his either.
By comparison with fossils of extinct animals found in the same stratum as the new Java Man, he appears to have lived about the middle of the Ice Age, not less than half-a-million years ago, according to the prevailing chronology, which, however may be extended in future though almost certainly not reduced. So it seems that the hypothetical 'anthropoid ancestor' of man (becoming more and more doubted by science) is still missing. Moreover, as Sir Arthur Keith points out, the characteristic features which differentiate the four or perhaps five present-day divisions of mankind existed in the earliest known fossil human ancestors, though not of course 'modernized.' No evidence of a primitive root-race from which the great races might have diverged has been found. Where is it to be sought? Must we look to the legendary Atlantis or even farther back for this? Scientists frown at such a heresy, but we are living in an age when what was considered incredible a few decades ago is now almost commonplace.
The Problem of Mercury's Atmosphere
Astronomers have waited for many years for the very unusual kind of transit of the planet Mercury across the sun which occurred on May 11, 1937. This transit just grazed the edge of the sun, as it were, and thereby offered the most favorable opportunity to determine if the planet has a deep atmosphere like that of Venus. When the latter planet transits the sun a brilliant ring of light is seen around it, caused by refraction in its atmosphere. Mercury, however, showed no trace of such a ring, and it is therefore considered that it cannot have any atmosphere, but must resemble our moon in that respect.
We read in The Secret Doctrine, I, 165, that Mercury is just coming out of 'obscuration,' and, we may presume, preparing for the development of active life. H. P. Blavatsky suggests that the great heat on Mercury, caused by its nearness to the sun, would be favorable to life, but she indicates that it is not necessary to think such life would be like anything which is familiar to us. The technical reasons offered by physicists against the possibility of any kind of an atmosphere on such a small planet as Mercury are not necessarily final, but arguments on that subject are not suitable for presentation here. H. P. Blavatsky seems to think that some kind of an atmosphere exists on Mercury.