The Theosophical Forum – September 1941


H. P. Blavatsky's Contribution to Astronomy


Speaking of the deeper studies in Theosophy, H. P. Blavatsky emphasizes the point that in astronomical lines their interest lies chiefly in "the Soul and Spirit of Cosmic Space, not merely with its illusive appearance and behavior." (The Secret Doctrine, I, 589) Yet the study of even the "shell," as she calls it, is a great help in elevating our minds and preparing the way to understand the magnificent scheme of cosmic evolution outlined in her books and carried still farther in the more advanced teachings which are accessible to those who have the right background to understand them.

While The Secret Doctrine is not a treatise on astronomy it contains invaluable teachings and hints which, when associated, present a unique, coherent, and rational scheme of the universe possessing fundamentally important features that are still unexplored by science. H. P. Blavatsky made no claim to originality in discovery or research, but as she says her teachings are derived directly from the Archaic Wisdom which she was directed to bring to the West. She had little or no mathematical equipment and her knowledge of the technical details of astronomy was limited. It is important to remember when reading her books that many of the supposed facts in the astronomy of sixty years ago have been superseded by more accurate information which is far nearer the esoteric teachings that she had the courage to present in face of almost universal disdain or disregard than the accepted dicta of the contemporary scientists.

The first and most significant difference between modern astronomy and the esoteric teaching lies in the immensely wider field of substance and consciousness within the range of the latter. It not only defies the ordinary mechanistic conventions by making mind and consciousness — spirit, if you prefer — the foundation of all cosmic activity, but it recognizes and studies planes or states of substance containing worlds far more ethereal or spiritual than those that our telescopes can reveal, planes which are interlocked with ours and worlds that are more or less in some cases interblended with this earth. Though invisible to normal human perception and beyond the range of any physical instrument these worlds are well known to the Adept Masters. They obey the laws appropriate to their conditions and are as "natural" as our familiar planets and as substantial to their inhabitants. Connected with our earth are a number of invisible globes, twelve or seven according to the point of view, the whole making what is called a Globe-Chain. Each of the other physical planets of the solar system has similar associates, also invisible to us. The human spirit or Monad passes ages of experience and evolution on each globe of the earth's chain, descending, as it were, from the most spiritual by degrees to the most material, our earth, and then rising again to the original state enriched by its tremendous harvest of experience.

References to the globes are to be found in oriental literature and various traditions, but as the complete teaching, slightly outlined above, was never given outside the Mystery-Schools they are only mentioned under a more or less thick veil of allegory. H. P. Blavatsky quotes and discusses some of these in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, pp. 100, 607, 705, and especially 757-8-9. A significant allusion occurs in Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, 420, but when Isis was written only vague hints on this and many other subjects were given; they were left for fuller elucidation ten years later, when Theosophical students were better prepared to understand them.

In addition to the slightly veiled references to the Globe chains in the Hindu Puranas and the Zoroastrian Avesta, etc., mentioned by H. P. Blavatsky, others can be found. Proclus, the Greek Neo-Platonist and Initiate, describes them in several places in his writings, especially in his commentaries on Plato's Timaeus. For instance he says that certain attendants of the seven planets follow their circulations, as Plato mentions, and that:

these also revolve and have a wandering of such a kind as that which he a little before mentioned of the seven planets. For they revolve in conjunction with and make their apocatastases [periodic return to the same place in an orbit] together with their principles. . . . Each of the planets is a whole world, comprehending in itself many divine genera invisible to us. Of all these, however, the visible star has the government. And in this the fixed stars differ from those in the planetary spheres . . . that in each of the latter there are invisible stars which revolve together with their spheres. . . . (1)

This could hardly be more plainly put without revealing more than was permitted by the wise restrictions of the Mystery Schools.

The Egyptian accounts of Amenti, the Kingdom of Osiris with its divided territories, in one of which the deceased reaps the goodly wheat of seven cubits, seemingly indicate the globe chain as well as the more familiar conditions of the soul in the Underworld immediately following death. American Indian symbology includes invisible planes of Being in successive stages. The Theosophical student could do valuable service by searching in the obscurities of symbolism in its various forms for further indications of the globe chain, for he has a key which is unsuspected by the scholars in our academies of learning.

The light thrown by H. P. Blavatsky upon the arcane subject of the Globe Chain not only opens our eyes to an utterly new and sublime vista of the extent and grandeur of the solar system but reveals the meaning of many obscure passages in the ancient esoteric teachings. A large volume could be written about this, but as western research has not yet trodden the Path which leads in that direction we must pass on to the modern scientific discoveries and trends of thought that have reached or are nearing the Theosophical point of view which when offered by H. P. Blavatsky were rejected as utterly improbable when not absolutely "unscientific."

The rhythmic descent and ascent through the seven globes of the earth-chain (which include minor cycles) is a reflexion or analogue of the vaster Cosmic Rhythms, called in Sanskrit Manvantaras, and the universality of such cycles within cycles is one of the "Fundamental Propositions" of the Ancient Wisdom, now called Theosophy, a master-key that can be applied universally. In man this periodic law appears in the bodily rhythms of breathing, heartbeat, etc., in waking and sleeping, in alternate lives on earth and in the resting state between incarnations; and on a larger scale in the evolution of human races here and on the other globes, and even farther. H. P. Blavatsky presents this fundamental principle, given by the illuminated Sages of all times, in the Proem to her The Secret Doctrine, pages 16, 17. The main features may be indicated in a few words: The Universe is "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing, . . . sparks of Eternity"; a regular tidal ebb and flow of all grades and groupings of worlds, periodically following the same example at large or small intervals according to their special conditions. Then comes the explanation of the evolution of life-consciousness which teaches: "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — a spark of the former — through the Cycle of Incarnation (or "Necessity') in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term."

Sixty years ago and for many subsequent years the attention of Western astronomy was mainly directed toward the study of the solar system, and the problems of the almost infinitely distant stars took a secondary place. The telescope, unaided, was not sufficient to probe the greater mysteries of physical space. But with the increasing application of the spectroscope and celestial photography a new and immensely important field of research was entered. The nature of the stars themselves, the architectural structure of the immense galaxy of stars in which our entire solar system is but a tiny fragment, and the possibility of finding something about the ultimate destiny of the world or even of the universe, became the object of intensive research and theorizing. And within a comparatively recent period the extent of the known universe was enormously increased by the amazing discovery of "island universes" or external galaxies scattered throughout the abysses of space, which resemble in most cases our galaxy of more than a hundred billion stars, the thickest portion of which is popularly known as the Milky Way. Before the great advance of modern astronomy scientists had profoundly discussed the future possibilities of the universe and there seemed to be no escape from the iron law of entropy by which everything was running down to ultimate stagnation and no re-winding of the Cosmic Clock was possible. Science and theology agreed that the earth "and all the heavens shall be dissolved and the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll," with no prospect of revival. A scientific writer put it very clearly in these words:

It implies steady, irreversible progression from a state in which organization exists toward one in which chaos only exists. We can expect its reversal to occur with infinitely less probability than we could expect a house tumbled into a ruin of 10,000 bricks to arise and rebuild itself. The whole universe, no less than each of its parts is subject to its sway, and that subjection implies an ultimate and inescapable death — a "heat death," in which every star having lost its fire, every planet its source of life and movement, all activity shall cease, and an eternal condition of lifeless chaotic uniformity exist for ever more.

It is not easy to realize why intelligent thinkers did not instinctively revolt against such a gloomy outlook in spite of the apparently strong argument derived from the mathematical second law of thermodynamics on which it depends. However a few leading authorities such as Professor E. A. Milne, f. r. s. of Oxford, and Dr. F. R. Moulton, and others were evidently not satisfied with its pessimistic implications. The former writes in language unusually poetic for a physicist,

Our universe is no passing thing. Creation was once, is always. . . . Each constituent has a temporal existence but the world as a whole knows no time history. . . The world sows ever at its own frontier the seeds of its own future. Each individual nebula reaps the harvest of its own experiences, and passes to the winter of its decay. But . . at the confines of the visible universe, at the world's inaccessible edge, the music of the spheres is the song of a new dawn, the dawn of the world's perpetual birthday.

And, according to Dr. Moulton in his Consider the Heavens, "Our scientific and philosophic theories, like our art, should satisfy our emotional needs" and should be consistent "with our ideas of the fitness of things." Happily, we are seeing conceptions more in harmony with these ideas gaining ground, supported by the pressure of the intensive researches and brilliant discoveries of modern astro-physics. The new information in regard to the tremendous energies locked up in the atom; of the nature, movements and distribution of the stars; the star-clusters and the nebulae; of the approximate ages of the sun and other celestial bodies; and of many other unexpected factors has brought great revolutions in thought. Even the highly controversial discussion about the so-called "expansion of the universe" has helped.

A most unexpected outcome of all this is the suggestion, supported by a mass of dovetailing evidence, that a great Cosmic Age came to an end at no very distant period, astronomically speaking of course, and that we are now only a comparatively few billion years away from some tremendous "Catastrophe," as it is called, after which a great reconstruction or rebuilding took place!

It is obvious that in face of this apparent renewal of activity the "running down" hypothesis loses its force. If a revival and complete reconstruction following a Cosmic Catastrophe has taken place, which seems practically certain, it is clear that the supposed irreversible and absolutely final "heat-death" or state of permanently inactive equilibrium did not occur, and the probability of an innumerable series of manifestations and disappearances of universes, etc., is enormously increased. The Catastrophe hypothesis is a great advance toward the complete Theosophical teaching of periodicity and universal cycles, each transformation carrying evolution a little farther under the eternal law of cause and effect, Karman. Stars and planets are manifestations of life and their reimbodiment from the subjective is caused by the spiritual basic consciousness re-awakening the latent energy within every particle of the universe, visible or invisible. H. P. Blavatsky writes:

It has been stated before now that Occultism does not accept anything inorganic in the Kosmos. The expression employed by Science, "inorganic substance," means simply that the latent life slumbering in the molecules of so-called "inert matter" is incognizable. All is Life, and every atom of even mineral dust is a Life, though beyond our comprehension and perception, because it is outside the range of the laws known to those who reject Occultism. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 248

In a marvelous passage, Gautama the Buddha declares the same principle:

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 enter into Enlightenment.

Attempts have been made to gloss over the gloomy aspect of the assumption that the universe can never rise from its ashes. It has been suggested that its physical death is probably very remote, and that anyway it will last our time! But even a "Panseonian Age" of trillions of years would be only a wink of the eye in Eternity, and this idea places us in an embarrassing intellectual position, however consoling. We should have to accept the unthinkable notion that the physical universe is absolutely a unique "creation" and that before its appearance and after its activity ceased "Chaos and old Night" reigned forever! However, this alleged running down of everything to stagnation and death is being discredited by many modern thinkers. For instance, Sir Francis Younghusband in his admirable study The Living Universe comments to this effect. It is generally believed that, after beginning as a seething mass of furiously agitated matter, the Earth gradually cooled and took shape until it settled down as a fairly steady and peaceful member of the Solar System. But while this physical running down was taking place something of a most improbable nature was in the making. Invisible forces were working and gradually the germs of a higher order of energy began to appear — Life. As the physical energies reduced in intensity so did the manifestations of life increase and become more and more significant. From the most rudimentary forms of consciousness we can trace a steady progress to the highest manifestation, self-consciousness in Man! This was no running down process. In regard to the "conservation of energy" problem, Sir Francis points out that although energy is built up into forms that break down in time, it is once more built up, and often into higher and higher forms, leading to the conclusion that it is not only energy that is conserved but also some other Power which transforms it.

The Ancient Wisdom, Theosophy, has always considered that everything in the Cosmos is a manifestation of the "One Life" whose forms constantly change in time and space, but which is eternal and indestructible in Itself.

We must close this part of our subject with a quotation of similar import to Sir Francis Younghusband's remarks. It is from the distinguished philosopher, Professor J. E. Boodin, in his important book, God, page 111: he evidently does not fear the mechanistic scientist's bugbear, "animism." (2)

A workable cosmological theory must be in some sense animistic. Only by conceiving the cosmos as guided by life and mind can we conceive it as a going concern. A living thing is the only kind of a thing that can run energy up to a higher potential as well as down to a lower potential. In some sense the cosmos is a dynamic equilibrium, but it is a living equilibrium, not a mechanical equilibrium. . . . It is sent where it is called for and not merely scattered at random. In this sense the parts are in virtual contact as a living thing — not by spatial contact but by contact of the whole.

(To be continued)


1. From The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus. Translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor. 1824. pp. xxix, xxx. (return to text)

2. Animistic — "The Platonic or Pythagorean belief that all the movements and forces in the world are the result of a world-soul." — Standard Dictionary (return to text)

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