Scientific conceptions regarding the structure and nature of matter have greatly changed in the last fifty years.
Without giving difficult technical explanations, the following may be said on this point:
The investigations of a large series of scientists, beginning with the names of Crookes, Rontgen, Becquerel and the Curies, and continuing in our time with Thomson, Lorentz, Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg and many others, have established the conviction that the smallest building-stones of our material Universe are not the hard, simple, indivisible atoms which, in the early and middle part of the nineteenth century, classical physics and chemistry thought they were.
The experiments of Crookes in 1879, the discovery of X-rays in 1895 and of radio-activity in 1896, were the first steps on the road which in our days has led to the insight that there is a close relation between "ordinary" matter, electricity, electro-magnetic radiation, and phenomena such as light, heat, gamma rays and radio waves.
It is already a considerable time ago that the atoms belied their name "indivisibilities." In agreement with one of those statements of H. P. B.'s which found hardly any acceptance when she wrote them down, Science has discovered that they consist of particles that can scarcely be called "material" in the ordinary sense of the word, and are much better described as more or less permanent electro-magnetic centers of force. Under certain conditions they behave as discrete particles, but in different circumstances they resemble fields of vibration that are not sharply defined spatially.
In the light of these facts the contrast between "void space" and the space that is occupied by matter, which therefore is "full," becomes perfectly illusive.
Modern physics distinguishes between three types of "smallest particles." The electron has been known longest, and thus it is about this electron that we think we know most. However, it has been found that an electron is not a definite, small, sharply defined portion of space, to which accurate dimensions may be assigned. Each electron — each of these "smallest particles" — is in a true sense as large as the Universe, permeating it throughout! Strictly speaking, an electron cannot be said to be here or there at a given moment. It is here and there. At most we could say that it is somewhat more here than there — according to its nature as center of force. Let one who may think this a strange conception, just ask himself where an eddy is at a given moment. Figuratively speaking, an electron may be conceived of as an eddy, for an eddy also possesses a center of force — the middle point of the eddy — which, under certain conditions, may suggest, together with its immediate surroundings, a clearly recognisable "thing." And yet, if we try to establish the boundaries of this "thing," this eddy, we soon come to the conclusion that in reality the entire water surface in which this eddy is circling, forms part of it. The boundaries that made us assign "thing'-qualities to it, have proved illusory.
The foregoing is meant as an endeavor to understand the essentials of modern scientific conceptions, disregarding many as yet unsolved technical problems. What is of the utmost importance for us — and presumably also for the future development of scientific investigation — is that the fundamental difference between force and matter is disappearing. Force and matter — on a higher plane: spirit and pro-matter — may be seen as two aspects of the one Substance. This result, to which the most advanced investigators, working along the strictly scientific lines of experiment and reasoning, have attained — although science has as yet not accepted the above theories completely and without prejudice — is a confirmation of what is taught by the Ancient Wisdom, part of which was written down by H. P. B. in 1888.
This assertion seems so improbable that we feel obliged to confirm it by a few references.
Never before has the accusation that has so often been brought against the authoress of The Secret Doctrine, namely that Theosophy is no more than a random collection of loose fragments taken from the most different sources and united to form a system that is unacceptable either scientifically, religiously, or philosophically — never before has it been so effectively rebutted as by the accumulation of evidence for the correctness and the progressiveness of the opinions which are embodied in her works and which have often proved to be far ahead of their times. We read:
From the standpoint of Materialism, which reduces the beginnings of all to matter, the Universe consists, in its fulness, of atoms and vacuity. — I, 518
This idea is combated by opponents showing that the answer to the question: "What is an atom?" — given by the scientists of that era — led to contradictions even in their own eyes.
After quoting a few statements the authoress continues:
This is sufficient to show how absurd are the simultaneous admissions of the non-divisibility and elasticity of the atom. The atom is elastic, ergo, the atom is divisible, and must consist of particles, or of sub-atoms. And these sub-atoms? They are either non-elastic, and in such case they represent no dynamic importance, or, they are elastic also; and in that case, they, too, are subject to divisibility. And thus ad infinitum. But infinite divisibility of atoms resolves matter into simple centers of force, i. e., precludes the possibility of conceiving matter as an objective substance. — I, 519
Thus we see how H. P. B. in fact indicates that a consistent pursuance of the basic hypotheses of the materialistic atom-theory must lead to the conception of the so-called "smallest particle" as a center of force, and to which modern physics has indeed approached for that matter. But — and to these ideas she adds what even modern science is still lacking today, and which is the only way of conquering materialism — she proceeds:
Accept the explanations and teachings of Occultism, and, the blind inertia of physical Science being replaced by the intelligent active Powers behind the veil of matter, motion and inertia become subservient to those Powers. It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built. It opens limitless horizons to substance informed by the divine breath of its soul in every possible state of tenuity, states still undreamt of by the most spiritually disposed chemists and physicists. — I, 520
For, it is really very little progress that has been made when the material atoms volatilize into centers of force, so long as forces are still looked upon as blind activities of — sit venia verbo — immaterial matter, by which contradictory combination of words the scientific conceptions of the ether, or the "field of force" of modern physics, is perfectly illustrated.
No one will deny that a force (whether gravity, electricity, or any other force) which exists outside of the bodies and in open space — be it ether or vacuum — must be something, and not a pure nothing, when conceived apart from a mass? Otherwise it could hardly exist in one place with a greater and in another with reduced "intensity." — I, 511
What science urgently wants is a more spiritual conception of the idea "force." And it is this conception that we find in the Theosophical term "Fohat."
It is a perfect impossibility to give the full meaning of Fohat in such a short article as the present. However, in a few brief suggestions we hope to give the reader at least some insight into the difference which, in spite of all progress that has been made in the field of science, still exists between the ideas of the latter and those of the Ancient Wisdom.
Actually, Fohat is the Mediator, who "creates" the manifested Kosmos from the unmanifested chaos. (In this connexion the word "chaos" should again be given its original meaning of the quietude and potentiality of a non-manifested state, which it has lost in the language of scientific cosmogony.) Fohat is the Demiurgic aspect of the Word or the Logos of the Gospel according to St. John, Tem-Ra of the Egyptian cosmogony, Eros, of the Greek Triad: Chaos, Gaia, and Eros. Fohat is also in one sense identical with Siva. Fohat is the creative principle, which sustains and animates all creation throughout the world's lifetime. Fohat is one, but the forms in which it manifests — the Sons of Fohat — are many.
The Ancient Wisdom tells us that there is an intelligent Law behind all natural phenomena, all evolution. Immanent in each atom of the Kosmos is Life, is Consciousness, guided and directed by Fohat. To use once more H. P. B.'s words:
Fohat, running along the seven principles of Akasa, acts upon manifested substance or the One Element, as declared above, and by differentiating it into various centers of Energy, sets in motion the law of Cosmic Evolution, which, in obedience to the Ideation of the Universal Mind, brings into existence all the various states of being in the manifested Solar System. — I, 110
The phenomena called electricity, light, sound, heat, attraction and magnetism in physics, are referred to by the Ancient Wisdom as Fohat and his Seven Sons.
The foregoing has, we hope, sufficiently elucidated the distinction between the "blind forces" of exact science and the spiritual principle, which the Occult Knowledge terms Fohat.
In spite of all that is drawing science and Theosophy together, their ways still diverge — science being the loser.
Rapprochement will not be possible until science has learned how to bring onto a higher plane its own discovery that force and matter are mutually supplementing aspects.
The true character of natural phenomena will not be understood so long as science continues to investigate material phenomena only — and even fields of force are still material. To each material process corresponds a spiritual activity, the soul, so to speak, of this process.
Not until the "spasm of concentration" on the material world has been overcome, will it be possible for science and the Ancient Wisdom to go hand in hand; only then will H. P. B.'s Message to science be understood.